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Academic Paper


Title: Verb argument structure acquisition in young children: defining a role for discourse
Author: Letitia R. Naigles
Institution: University of Connecticut
Author: Ashley Maltempo
Institution: University of Connecticut
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Two-, three- and four-year-old English learners enacted sentences that were missing a direct object (e.g. *The zebra brings.). Previous work has indicated that preschoolers faced with such ungrammatical sentences consistently alter the usual meaning of the verb to fit the syntactic frame (enacting ‘zebra comes’); older children are more likely to repair the syntax to fit the meaning of the verb (enacting ‘zebra brings something’; Naigles, Gleitman & Gleitman, ). We investigated whether young children performed more repairs if an informative context preceded the ungrammatical sentences. Test sentences were preceded by short vignettes that created a relationship between three characters. Children repaired more sentences than had been found previously; however, older preschoolers also repaired significantly more frequently than younger preschoolers. Discourse context thus seems relevant to the acquisition of verb argument structure, but is not the sole source of information.

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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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