"Really? She blicked the baby?": Two-year-olds learn combinatorial facts about verbs by listening: Research article

Sylvia Yuan, Cynthia Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Children use syntax to guide verb learning. We asked whether the syntactic structure in which a novel verb occurs is meaningful to children even without a concurrent scene from which to infer the verb's semantic content. In two experiments, 2-year-olds observed dialogues in which interlocutors used a new verb in transitive ("Jane blicked the baby!") or intransitive ("Jane blicked!") sentences. The children later heard the verb in isolation ("Find blicking!") while watching a one-participant event and a two-participant event presented side by side. Children who had heard transitive dialogues looked reliably longer at the two-participant event than did those who had heard intransitive dialogues. This effect persisted even when children were tested on a different day, but disappeared when no novel verb accompanied the test events (Experiment 2). Thus, 2-year-olds gather useful combinatorial information about a novel verb simply from hearing it in sentences, and later retrieve that information to guide interpretation of the verb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-626
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Volume20
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology

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