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Do simple syntactic heuristics to verb meaning hold up? Testing the structure mapping account over spontaneous speech to Spanish-learning children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2020

Cynthia Pamela Audisio
Affiliation:
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)
Maia Julieta Migdalek
Affiliation:
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)
Corresponding

Abstract

Experimental research has shown that English-learning children as young as 19 months, as well as children learning other languages (e.g., Mandarin), infer some aspects of verb meanings by mapping the nominal elements in the utterance onto participants in the event expressed by the verb. The present study assessed this structure or analogical mapping mechanism (SAMM) on naturalistic speech in the linguistic environment of 20 Spanish-learning infants from Argentina (average age 19 months). This study showed that the SAMM performs poorly – at chance level – especially when only noun phrases (NPs) included in experimental studies of the SAMM were parsed. If agreement morphology is considered, the performance is slightly above chance but still very poor. In addition, it was found that the SAMM performs better on intransitive and transitive verbs, compared to ditransitives. Agreement morphology has a beneficial effect only on transitive and ditransitive verbs. On the whole, concerns are raised about the role of the SAMM in infants’ interpretation of verb meaning in natural exchanges.

Résumé

Résumé

Des recherches expérimentales ont montré que dès l'âge de 19 mois, les enfants apprenant l'anglais, ainsi que les enfants apprenant d'autres langues (par exemple, le mandarin), déduisent certains aspects de la signification des verbes en projetant les éléments nominaux de l'énoncé sur les participants à l'événement exprimé par le verbe. La présente étude a évalué cette structure ou mécanisme de cartographie analogique (en anglais: structure or analogical mapping mechanism (SAMM)) sur la parole naturaliste dans l'environnement linguistique de 20 nourrissons apprenant l'espagnol en Argentine (âge moyen de 19 mois). Cette étude a montré que le SAMM fonctionne mal – au niveau du hasard – en particulier lorsque seuls les syntagmes nominaux (SN) inclus dans les études expérimentales du SAMM ont été analysés. Si l'on considère la morphologie d'accord, les performances sont légèrement au-dessus du hasard, mais demeurent très médiocres. En outre, on a constaté que le SAMM fonctionne mieux sur les verbes intransitifs et transitifs que sur les ditransitifs. La morphologie d'accord n'a un effet bénéfique que sur les verbes transitifs et ditransitifs. Dans l'ensemble, on s'inquiète du rôle du SAMM dans l'interprétation par les nourrissons de la signification des verbes dans les échanges naturels.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Linguistic Association/Association canadienne de linguistique 2020

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Footnotes

This research is part of the project “Vocabulario, narración y argumentación infantil. Un estudio psicolingüístico y sociocultural” (PIP 80/2015, CONICET, Argentina, period: 2015–2018). The first analyses were done in the framework of the Projet International de Coopération Scientifique “Early linguistic experiences of Argentinean children: Social and cultural variation” (PICS 261838, CNRS, France and CONICET, Argentina, period: 2016 – August 2017), headed by Dr. Alejandrina Cristia (CNRS, France) and Dr. Celia Rosemberg (CONICET, Argentina).

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Do simple syntactic heuristics to verb meaning hold up? Testing the structure mapping account over spontaneous speech to Spanish-learning children
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