What does syntax say about space? 2-year-olds use sentence structure to learn new prepositions

Cynthia Fisher, Stacy L. Klingler, Hyun joo Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Children as young as two use sentence structure to learn the meanings of verbs. We probed the generality of sensitivity to sentence structure by moving to a different semantic and syntactic domain, spatial prepositions. Twenty-six-month-olds used sentence structure to determine whether a new word was an object-category name (This is a corp!) or a spatial-relational term (This is acorp my box!). We argue that children rely on the intimate relationship between nouns in sentences and semantic arguments of predicate terms: Noting that a new word takes noun arguments identifies the new word as a predicate term, and directs the child's attention to relations among its arguments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B19-B29
JournalCognition
Volume101
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Keywords

  • Language acquisition
  • Syntactic bootstrapping
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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