The acquisition of verb subcategorization in a functionalist framework

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This paper takes a functionalist perspective on the development of verb subcategorization, concentrating on a subclass of action verbs. The acquisition of verb subcategorization is viewed as the construction of logical structures (LSs) for the predicate in which a verb can appear. The LS motivates a verb's syntactic specifications through linking rules which reflect, in part, universals, and, in part, language specific generalizations. Crucial information for the construction of an LS are combinations of input and context which can unambiguously specify aspects of the meaning of a predicate. One consequence of this approach is that arrays of explicit NP arguments with syntactic encoding play a minor role in this process. Information about three semantic dimensions figure in the construction of the LS of an action predicate; (1) animacy of the theme or patient referent, whether implicit or explicit; (2) intentionality of the theme or patient referent as expressed by morphemes that imply the intentional origin of an action; and (3) the temporal contour of an action, in particular, whether a predicate is telic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-63
Number of pages23
JournalFirst Language
Issue number31
StatePublished - Feb 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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