Productivity of noun slots in verb frames

Theakston, Anna L.; Ibbotson, Paul; Freudenthal, Daniel; Lieven, Elena V. M. and Tomasello, Michael (2015). Productivity of noun slots in verb frames. Cognitive Science (In press).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12216

Abstract

Productivity is a central concept in the study of language and language acquisition. As a test case for exploring the notion of productivity, we focus on the noun slots of verb frames, such as __want__, __see__, and __get__. We develop a novel combination of measures designed to assess both the flexibility and creativity of use in these slots. We do so using a rigorously controlled sample of child speech and child directed speech from three English-speaking children between the ages of 2–3 years and their caregivers. We find different levels of creativity and flexibility between the adult and child samples for some measures, for some slots, and for some developmental periods. We discuss these differences in the context of verb frame semantics, conventionality versus creativity and child errors, and draw some tentative conclusions regarding developmental changes in children’s early grammatical representations.

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