Young children learn to produce passives with nonce verbs.
Younger and older children (mean ages = 2 years 11 months and 3 years 5 months) learned 2 nonce verbs in a full passive or active transitive construction. When asked patient-focused questions encouraging passive-voice replies (e.g., "What happened to the ball?") or agent-focused questions encouraging active-voice replies (e.g., "What did Elmo do?"), children used a variety of strategies to meet the demands of the questions, usually without changing the construction in which the verb occurred. In Study 2 in which passive and active constructions were primed, 40% of the almost 3-year-old children used an active-introduced verb in a passive construction and 35% used a passive-introduced verb in an active transitive construction when discourse demands encouraged them to do so. Thus, before their 3rd birthdays, some children have an understanding of the passive and active transitive constructions general enough to support productive usages with newly learned verbs.
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