Avoiding dative overgeneralisation errors: Semantics, statistics or both?
Number of pages
SourceLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29, 2, (2014), pp. 218-243
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC PL
Language, Cognition and Neuroscience
How do children eventually come to avoid the production of overgeneralisation errors, in particular, those involving the dative (e.g., *I said her "no")? The present study addressed this question by obtaining from adults and children (5-6, 9-10 years) judgements of well-formed and over-general datives with 301 different verbs (44 for children). A significant effect of pre-emption - whereby the use of a verb in the prepositional-object (PO)-dative construction constitutes evidence that double-object (DO)-dative uses are not permitted - was observed for every age group. A significant effect of entrenchment - whereby the use of a verb in any construction constitutes evidence that unattested dative uses are not permitted - was also observed for every age group, with both predictors also accounting for developmental change between ages 5-6 and 9-10 years. Adults demonstrated knowledge of a morphophonological constraint that prohibits Latinate verbs from appearing in the DO-dative construction (e.g., *I suggested her the trip). Verbs' semantic properties (supplied by independent adult raters) explained additional variance for all groups and developmentally, with the relative influence of narrow- vs broad-range semantic properties increasing with age. We conclude by outlining an account of the formation and restriction of argument-structure generalisations designed to accommodate these findings.
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