The role of performance limitations in the acquisition of verb-argument structure: an alternative account

A L Theakston, E V Lieven, J M Pine, C F Rowland
2001 Journal of Child Language  
This study investigates the role of performance limitations in children's early acquisition of verb-argument structure. Valian (1991) claims that intransitive frames are easier for children to produce early in development than transitive frames because they do not require a direct object argument. Children who understand this distinction are expected to produce a lower proportion of transitive verb utterances early in development in comparison with later stages of development and to omit direct
more » ... and to omit direct objects much more frequently with mixed verbs (where direct objects are optional) than with transitive verbs. To test these claims, data from nine children aged between 1;10.7 and 2;0.25 matched with Valian's subjects on MLU were examined. When analysed in terms of abstract syntactic structures Valian's findings are supported. However, a detailed lexical analysis of the data suggests that the children were not selecting argument structure on the basis of syntactic complexity.
pmid:11258001 fatcat:sg3f4u5rhnh7lbimmt2f4yl5ie