ERIC Number: EJ777482
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Feb
Testing the Role of Semantic Similarity in Syntactic Development
Journal of Child Language, v32 n1 p35-61 Feb 2005
The study explored early syntactic development, and tested the hypothesis that children use similarity of meaning in order to move beyond the learning of individual item-based multiword constructions. The first 6 types of verb-object (VO) constructions in Hebrew-speaking children were analysed for the occurrence of transfer of learning and facilitation, as well as for the semantic similarity of the direct objects (DO). Longitudinal naturalistic speech corpora of 20 children (1;06-2;06) were analysed. We found facilitation (increased rate of learning) among the first 6 types of VO constructions (each type built on a different verb) as evidenced by the accelerating growth curves. Next, we measured the semantic similarity of the DOs using an 8-category system including Patient, Theme and Object of Result. The first 6 DO types represented 3.95 different semantic roles. On the average, after the first VO construction was learned, 3 out of the following 5 constructions produced were not preceded by another VO construction where the DO was of the same semantic category. The results indicate that facilitation of learning of early syntax is most probably not mediated by semantic similarity.
Descriptors: Semantics, Verbs, Syntax, Transfer of Training, Semiotics, Hypothesis Testing, Semitic Languages, Toddlers
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Sponsor: Spencer Foundation, Chicago, IL.
Authoring Institution: N/A