Learning Verb Syntax via Listening

New Evidence From 22-Month-Olds

Katherine Messenger, Sylvia Yuan, Cynthia L Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Children recruit verb syntax to guide verb interpretation. We asked whether 22-month-olds spontaneously encode information about a particular novel verb’s syntactic properties through listening to sentences, retain this information in long-term memory over a filled delay, and retrieve it to guide interpretation upon hearing the same novel verb again. Children watched dialogues in which interlocutors discussed unseen events using a novel verb in transitive (e.g., “Anna blicked the baby”) or intransitive sentences (“Anna blicked”). Children later heard the verb in isolation (“Find blicking!”) while viewing a two-participant causal action and a one-participant action event. Children who had heard transitive dialogues looked longer at the two-participant event than did those who heard intransitive dialogues. This effect disappeared if children heard a different novel verb at test (“Find kradding!”). These findings implicate a role for distributional learning in early verb learning: syntactic-combinatorial information about otherwise unknown words may pervade the toddler’s lexicon, guiding later word interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-368
Number of pages13
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

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syntax
learning
dialogue
evidence
interpretation
event
baby
social isolation
Verb Learning
Verbs
Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Learning Verb Syntax via Listening : New Evidence From 22-Month-Olds. / Messenger, Katherine; Yuan, Sylvia; Fisher, Cynthia L.

In: Language Learning and Development, Vol. 11, No. 4, 02.10.2015, p. 356-368.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Messenger, Katherine ; Yuan, Sylvia ; Fisher, Cynthia L. / Learning Verb Syntax via Listening : New Evidence From 22-Month-Olds. In: Language Learning and Development. 2015 ; Vol. 11, No. 4. pp. 356-368.
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