Young children's overgeneralizations with fixed transitivity verbs.
The present study examined English-speaking children's tendency to make argument structure overgeneralization errors (e.g., I disappeared it). Children were exposed to several English verbs of fixed transitivity (exclusively intransitive or exclusively transitive) and then asked questions that encouraged them to overgeneralize usage of the verbs. Seventy-two children (24 in each of three age groups: 3, 4/5, and 8 years of age) experienced four actions performed by puppets. Each action had two verbs of similar meaning associated with it in the context of the experimental action: one more familiar to young children and one less familiar. Children at all ages were more likely to overgeneralize usage of verbs that were less familiar to them, supporting the hypothesis that children's usage of verbs in particular construction types becomes entrenched over time. As children solidly learn the transitivity status of particular verbs, they become more reluctant to use those verbs in other argument structure constructions.
Brooks, PJ; Tomasello, M; Dodson, K; Lewis, LB
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