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ERIC Number: EJ1050388
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Mar
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
On the Plasticity of Semantic Generalizations: Children and Adults Modify Their Verb Lexicalization Biases in Response to Changing Input
Shafto, Carissa L.; Havasi, Catherine; Snedeker, Jesse
Developmental Psychology, v50 n3 p794-808 Mar 2014
Languages differ in how they package the components of an event into words to form sentences. For example, while some languages typically encode the manner of motion in the verb (e.g., running), others more often use verbs that encode the path (e.g., ascending). Prior research has demonstrated that children and adults have lexicalization biases; that is, they assume that novel motion verbs will reflect the dominant pattern of their own language. These experiments explored the plasticity of these biases. In Experiments 1 and 2 we taught English-speaking adults motion verbs, varying the proportion of manner and path verbs in the training set; their interpretation of subsequent verbs closely reflected the probabilistic variation in the input. In Experiments 3 and 4, 5-year-old children also systematically shifted their lexicalization biases to reflect the verbs that they were taught. We conclude that lexicalization biases are adaptive inferences about verb meaning that are updated on the basis of experience.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation; National Institutes of Health (DHHS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: IIS-0218852; F31 DC010281