The Development of Verb Concepts: Children's Use of Verbs to Label Familiar and Novel Events

  • Behrend D
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The importance of actions, results, and instruments in verb concepts was examined in four studies. Study 1 investigated how children label familiar events for which instrument, action, and result verbs were appropriate labels. In Study 2, subjects were taught novel verbs ans were asked to use these verbs to label events in which the instrument, action, or result had been changed. Study 1 showed that 3-year-olds used action verbs more frequently than older children and adults, and that they preferred to use an action verb over a result verb when both verbs were appropriate labels. Instrument verbs were used most frequently as first responses to the events, and were most frequently used by older children and adults. In Study 2, subjects were least likly to use the novel verbs to label events in which the result had changed. This effect increased with age. Action changes lad a moderate effect for all age groups, while instrument changes had the weakest effect. Studies 3 and 4 ruled out stimulus salience and a familiar word strategy as interpretations of these findings. The studies are discussed in terms of current theory and research on conceptual devleopment, word-learning strategies, and the semantic organiziation of nouns and verbs.

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  • Douglas A. Behrend

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