Acquisition of verb argument structure from a developmental perspective: Evidence from Child Hebrew
The present study proposes a developmental account of Verb Argument Acquisition based on analysis of longitudinal data from four Hebrew-speaking children aged 1;5 - 3;0 years. The following developmental trajectory emerges from the data: Verb argument structure is initially acquired in a bottom-up fashion, limited to specific lexical items. Children start out by rote-learning particular unanalyzed verb forms and verb-argument combinations (holophrases). Then, they start hypothesizing about argument positions, as attested by the use of “groping patterns” (Braine 1976). Once argument positions are set, children start producing verb-specific “utterance schemas” with a wide range of nouns. Gradually, they increase the variation in argument types. As children experience more and more verbs in a variety of communicative contexts, acquisition becomes more abstract and top-down. This is evident from their use of innovated verbs in familiar argument patterns, and from their overextension errors. The proposed account is in line with other input-based accounts of verb argument acquisition (e.g., Braine 1976; Tomasello 1992, 2000a, b).
KeywordsLanguage Acquisition Argument Structure Morphological Form Argument Position Early Acquisition
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