Input to Verb Learning: Evidence for the Plausibility of Syntactic Bootstrapping

  • Naigles L
  • Hoff-Ginsberg E
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Abstract

The theory of syntactic bootstrapping proposes that children use the syntactic frames in which verbs are presented as a source of information about their meaning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which maternal type and diversity of verb frames are consistent with the requirements of that theory. The uses of 25 common verbs in the speech of 57 mothers to their 1- to 2-year-old children were tabulated and parsed for syntactic frame. Analyses revealed 2 major findings concerning the use of verbs in child-directed speech: (a) Verbs in different semantic categories appear in different syntactic environments, and (b) individual verbs are distinguished by the set of frames in which they appear. These findings support the plausibility of the syntactic bootstrapping hypoth- esis by demonstrating that children's input provides the structural cues to verb meaning that the syntactic bootstrapping procedure requires.

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Authors

  • Letitia R. Naigles

  • Erika Hoff-Ginsberg

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