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ERIC Number: EJ777152
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2002-Aug
Pages: 22
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0305-0009
Language-General and Language-Specific Influences on Children's Acquisition of Argument Structure: A Comparison of French and English
Naigles, Letitia R.; Lehrer, Nadine
Journal of Child Language, v29 n3 p545-566 Aug 2002
This research investigates language-general and language-specific properties of the acquisition of argument structure. Ten French preschoolers enacted forty sentences containing motion verbs; sixteen sentences were ungrammatical in that the syntactic frame was incompatible with the standard argument structure for the verb (e.g. *"Le tigre va le lion" = *"The tiger goes the lion"). Previous work (Naigles, Fowler & Helm; Naigles, Gleitman & Gleitman indicated that English-speaking two-year-olds faced with such ungrammatical sentences consistently altered the usual meaning of the verb to fit the syntactic frame (FRAME COMPLIANCE) whereas adults faced with the same sentences altered the syntax to fit the meaning of the verb (VERB COMPLIANCE). The age at which children began to perform Verb Compliantly varied by frame and by verb. The current study finds that the level of Verb Compliance in French five-year-olds largely mirrors that of English-speaking five-year-olds. The sole exception is the intransitive frame with an added prepositional phrase (e.g. *"Le tigre amene pres de la passerelle" = *"The tiger brings next to the ramp"), which elicits a higher level of Verb Compliance among French kindergarteners than among their English learning peers. This effect may be due to the unambiguous interpretation of French spatial prepositions (i.e. "next to" has both locative and directional interpretations whereas "pres de" supports only the locative interpretation). These data support the conclusion that the acquisition of argument structure is influenced by both language-general mechanisms (e.g. uniqueness, entrenchment) and language-specific properties (e.g. prepositional ambiguity). [This research was supported by the University of Connecticut Research Foundation, and by the Jonathan Edwards College Bates Traveling Fellowship.]
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Kindergarten; Preschool Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A