PublisherUniversity of Arizona Linguistics Circle
AbstractThis paper starts by introducing the debate between the nativist account and the learning account of language acquisition. It participates in the debate by addressing three questions concerning verb productivity. First, do young children have abstract syntactic knowledge of the verb category? Second, is vocabulary size a good predictor for a child’s syntactic productivity? Third, is children’s speech correlated with adults’ speech with regard to verb productivity? It is predicted that, if the limited scope learning account is right, the following should be expected: (1) frequent verbs and infrequent verbs are expected to have different productivity in children’s speech; (2) verb productivity in child speech is significantly lower than that in adult speech; (3) frequent verbs and infrequent verbs behave differently in terms with the correlation between verb productivity and an individual’s vocabulary size; (4) children and adults are correlated with regard to verb productivity. The analyses based on large longitudinal data in this paper confirm all the above predictions, suggesting that a learning approach of language acquisition for verb usage is supported.
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