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Exposure and feedback in language acquisition: adult construals of children's early verb-form use in Hebrew

  • Lyle LUSTIGMAN (a1) and Eve V. CLARK (a2)


This study focuses on adult responses to children's verb uses, the information they provide, and how they change over time. We analyzed longitudinal samples from four children acquiring Hebrew (age-range: 1;4–2;5; child verb-forms = 8,337). All child verbs were coded for inflectional category, and for whether and how adults responded to them. Our findings show that: (a) children's early verbs were opaque with no clear inflectional target (e.g., the child-form tapes corresponds to letapes ‘to-climb’, metapes ‘is-climbing’, yetapes ‘will-climb’), with inflections added gradually; (b) most early verbs were followed by adult responses using the same lexeme; and (c) as opacity in children's verbs decreased, adults made fewer uses of the same lexeme in their responses, and produced a broader array of inflections and inflectional shifts. In short, adults are attuned to what their children know and respond to their early productions accordingly, with extensive ‘tailor-made’ feedback on their verb uses.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192, USA. E-mail:


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