ERIC Number: ED338058
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Jul
Reference Count: N/A
Bootstrapping from Agency: Early Notions of Agency According to Pinker's Semantic Bootstrapping Hypothesis.
A fundamental problem in language acquisition is determining how children learn the formal vocabulary of the adult grammar. A proposed solution is the Semantic Bootstrapping Hypothesis (SBH), which states that children infer the identity of syntactic entities such as "subject" in input based on the presence of semantic entities such as "agent." The hypothesis is a source of insight into and constraints on early notions of agency. For bootstrapping to work, children must be able to detect the presence of agents in parent-to-child speech/contexts. Because young children have not mastered the nuances of verb meaning, parents must use words whose semantic representations correspond closely to the child's conceptual encoding of a situation. A primitive notion of agency underlying this type of bootstrapping is developed in S. Pinker's theory of semantic representation. Furthermore, this research can account for some major variations in agency found across languages. Finally, SBH is supported by developmental evidence showing that children have syntactic categories and are sensitive to semantic information about agency. (Author/MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Semantic Bootstrapping Hypothesis (Pinker)
Note: In: Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, Number Twenty-nine. California, Stanford University, 1990. p148-155.