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Academic Paper

Title: The role of input frequency and semantic transparency in the acquisition of verb meaning: evidence from placement verbs in Tamil and Dutch
Author: Bhuvana Narasimhan
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
Author: Marianne Gullberg
Institution: Lund University
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Dutch
Abstract: We investigate how Tamil- and Dutch-speaking adults and four- to five-year-old children use caused posture verbs (‘lay/stand a bottle on a table’) to label placement events in which objects are oriented vertically or horizontally. Tamil caused posture verbs consist of morphemes that individually label the causal and result subevents (‘nikka veyyii’ ‘make stand’; ‘paDka veyyii’ ‘make lie’), occurring in situational and discourse contexts where object orientation is at issue. Dutch caused posture verbs are less semantically transparent: they are monomorphemic (‘zetten’ ‘set/stand’; ‘leggen’ ‘lay’), often occurring in contexts where factors other than object orientation determine use. Caused posture verbs occur rarely in Tamil input corpora; in Dutch input, they are used frequently. Elicited production data reveal that Tamil four-year-olds use infrequent placement verbs appropriately whereas Dutch children use high-frequency placement verbs inappropriately even at age five. Semantic transparency exerts a stronger influence than input frequency in constraining children's verb meaning acquisition.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 38, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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