Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 February 2009
This paper explores how children learn the range of aspect inflections to which a verb is amenable. The data considered are from observations of three Japanese boys aged between 1; 10 and 2; 1. Analyses focus on the children's mastery of Aktionsart specific intersentential patterns. For example, in one pattern, a caregiver asks nani shiteiru? ‘What is someone or something doing’. The conventional answer is with the continuative -te iru form of a verb that expresses an activity. Three conclusions are drawn. First, lexical assignment had begun before aspectual inflections were used to signal temporal perspective switch. Secondly, lexical assignment began with anchorpoints tying certain lexical contrasts to the Aktionsart of minimal sentences. Thirdly, overgeneralizations of aspect inflections are due to the difficulty of acquiring devices that signal temporal perspective switch.
This research was supported by a National Research Service Award, T32HD07181–08. The author thanks Pat Clancy, Dan Slobin, Cecil Toupin and Robert Van Valin for comments and criticisms of this work. The author also thanks Betty Hart and the JGLP for aid in preparing this manuscript, and Patricia Clancy for her generous contribution of data to this study. Errors are the sole responsibility of the author.