Not all subjects are agents

Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension

Rose M. Scott, Yael Gertner, Cynthia L Fisher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Children use syntax to guide sentence comprehension and verb learning. We explored the nature of the meanings children infer from syntactic evidence by examining the types of event-roles they can link with the subjects and objects of transitive verbs. In two experiments, 23-month-olds heard a novel verb in a transitive sentence while viewing pairs of events in which one participant acted on another without producing a clear effect (Experiment 1) or one participant moved relative to another without contacting it (Experiment 2). In both cases, children looked longer at the event in which the subject referent played a more prominent role. These findings suggest that children map a highly abstract conceptual-semantic asymmetry onto the syntactic difference between subjects and objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTrends in Language Acquisition Research
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Pages153-176
Number of pages24
Volume24
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Fingerprint

comprehension
Language
Syntactics
language
event
experiment
Experiments
Semantics
syntax
asymmetry
semantics
Learning
learning
evidence

Keywords

  • Language acquisition
  • Syntactic bootstrapping
  • Thematic roles
  • Transitivity
  • Verb learning
  • Word order

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication

Cite this

Scott, R. M., Gertner, Y., & Fisher, C. L. (2018). Not all subjects are agents: Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. In Trends in Language Acquisition Research (Vol. 24, pp. 153-176). John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/tilar.24.07sco

Not all subjects are agents : Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. / Scott, Rose M.; Gertner, Yael; Fisher, Cynthia L.

Trends in Language Acquisition Research. Vol. 24 John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2018. p. 153-176.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Scott, RM, Gertner, Y & Fisher, CL 2018, Not all subjects are agents: Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. in Trends in Language Acquisition Research. vol. 24, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 153-176. https://doi.org/10.1075/tilar.24.07sco
Scott RM, Gertner Y, Fisher CL. Not all subjects are agents: Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. In Trends in Language Acquisition Research. Vol. 24. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 2018. p. 153-176 https://doi.org/10.1075/tilar.24.07sco
Scott, Rose M. ; Gertner, Yael ; Fisher, Cynthia L. / Not all subjects are agents : Transitivity and meaning in early language comprehension. Trends in Language Acquisition Research. Vol. 24 John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2018. pp. 153-176
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