Do You Really Mean It? Linking Lexical Semantic Profiles and the Age of Acquisition for the English Passive
Emma Nguyen, Lisa Pearl
June 2017

Within the domain of passives, children have been shown to be delayed in their understanding of by- phrase passives like ''Alex was loved by Emma''. Several factors have been proposed to explain the general delay in understanding passives (e.g., frequency: Demuth et al. 2010; lexical semantic: Maratsos et al. 1985; syntactic: Borer & Wexler 1987; pragmatic: O’Brien et al. 2006). Here, we examine the influence of frequency and lexical semantic factors on English children’s acquisition of by-phrase passives. We conduct both a meta-analysis of experimental studies capturing the age of acquisition for the passive use of English verbs and a corpus analysis of English children’s input. We find no relationship at all between the demonstrated age of acquisition (AoA) and input frequency, whether we examine frequency of the individual verb in the passive or frequency of the individual verb in any form. However, there is a striking correlation between the lexical semantic profile of verbs and the AoA for their passive use by English-speaking children. Our findings suggest lexical semantics are a key variable impacting children’s performance on the English passive. We discuss promising future experimental, corpus, computational, and theoretical directions.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003496
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: WCCFL 2017 proceedings
keywords: passives, acquisition, english, lexical semantics, corpus analysis, meta-analysis, semantics, syntax
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