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A universal cue for grammatical categories in the input to children: frequent frames


Moran, Steven; Blasi, Damián E; Schikowski, Robert; Küntay, Aylin; Pfeiler, Barbara; Allen, Shanley; Stoll, Sabine (2018). A universal cue for grammatical categories in the input to children: frequent frames. Cognition, 175:131-140.

Abstract

How does a child map words to grammatical categories when words are not overtly marked either lexically or prosodically? Recent language acquisition theories have proposed that distributional information encoded in sequences of words or morphemes might play a central role in forming grammatical classes. To test this proposal, we analyze child-directed speech from seven typologically diverse languages to simulate maximum variation in the structures of the world's languages. We ask whether the input to children contains cues for assigning syntactic categories in frequent frames, which are frequently occurring nonadjacent sequences of words or morphemes. In accord with aggregated results from previous studies on individual languages, we find that frequent word frames do not provide a robust distributional pattern for accurately predicting grammatical categories. However our results show that frames are extremely accurate cues cross-linguistically at the morpheme level. We theorize that the nonadjacent dependency pattern captured by frequent frames is a universal anchor point for learners on the morphological level to detect and categorize grammatical categories. Whether frames also play a role on higher linguistic levels such as words is determined by grammatical features of the individual language.

Abstract

How does a child map words to grammatical categories when words are not overtly marked either lexically or prosodically? Recent language acquisition theories have proposed that distributional information encoded in sequences of words or morphemes might play a central role in forming grammatical classes. To test this proposal, we analyze child-directed speech from seven typologically diverse languages to simulate maximum variation in the structures of the world's languages. We ask whether the input to children contains cues for assigning syntactic categories in frequent frames, which are frequently occurring nonadjacent sequences of words or morphemes. In accord with aggregated results from previous studies on individual languages, we find that frequent word frames do not provide a robust distributional pattern for accurately predicting grammatical categories. However our results show that frames are extremely accurate cues cross-linguistically at the morpheme level. We theorize that the nonadjacent dependency pattern captured by frequent frames is a universal anchor point for learners on the morphological level to detect and categorize grammatical categories. Whether frames also play a role on higher linguistic levels such as words is determined by grammatical features of the individual language.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linguistics and Language, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental and Educational Psychology, Language and Linguistics
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:12 Mar 2018 19:37
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 14:49
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0010-0277
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.02.005
PubMed ID:29518682
Project Information:
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID615988
  • : Project TitleACQDIV - Acquisition processes in maximally diverse languages: Min(d)ing the ambient language

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