Chapter

Verb Learning as a Probe Into Children's Grammars

Jeffrey Lidz

in Action Meets Word

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195170009
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893300 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195170009.003.0017
Verb Learning as a Probe Into Children's Grammars

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One of the fundamental hypotheses of generative grammar is that the linguistic constraints which limit the hypotheses that learners consider in acquiring a language are exactly those constraints which limit cross-linguistic variation. On this view, then, hypotheses about the cognitive code underlying the limits of linguistic variation are also hypotheses about constraints on language acquisition. This chapter explores this possibility in the domain of verb learning. It first considers constraints on possible verbs which are deduced from linguistic description and analysis, and then examines whether their effects are present in the acquisition of verbs. It is shown that cross-linguistic constraints do parallel constraints on acquisition, thus allowing us to see those constraints in action both at the level of language description and in language development. This finding lends support, at least in the domain of verb learning, to the view that research on language acquisition profits and can be guided by research on mature linguistic systems.

Keywords: verb learning; generative grammar; linguistic constraints; language acquisition

Chapter.  9329 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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