The role of input frequency and semantic transparency in the acquisition of verb meaning: Evidence from placement verbs in Tamil and Dutch

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Abstract

We investigate how Tamil- and Dutch-speaking adults and 4- to-5-year-old children use caused posture verbs (‘lay/stand a bottle on a table’) to label placement events in which objects are oriented vertically or horizontally. Tamil caused posture verbs consist of morphemes that individually label the causal and result subevents (nikka veyyii ‘make stand’; paDka veyyii ‘make lie’), occurring in situational and discourse contexts where object orientation is at issue. Dutch caused posture verbs are less semantically transparent: they are monomorphemic (zetten ‘set/stand’; leggen ‘lay’), often occurring in contexts where factors other than object orientation determine use. Caused posture verbs occur rarely in Tamil input corpora; in Dutch input, they are used frequently. Elicited production data reveal that Tamil four-year-olds use infrequent placement verbs appropriately whereas Dutch children use highfrequency placement verbs inappropriately even at age five. Semantic transparency exerts a stronger influence than input frequency in constraining children’s verb meaning acquisition.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Keywords

  • semantic transparency, input frequency, placement events, child language acquisition, caused posture verbs, Tamil, Dutch
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-532
JournalJournal of Child Language
Volume38
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Humanities Lab (015101200), Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

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