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Learning the meaning of verbs: insights from Quechua
First Language (2010)
  • Ellen H Courtney

Largely based on observations of English-speaking children, investigators have proposed constraints on verb learning, e.g., syntactic bootstrapping, the principle of uniqueness, and innate semantic-conceptual categories. Children produce overgeneralization errors as they acquire verb meaning, and data from some languages reveal an intriguing asymmetry: children use intransitive verbs transitively, while seldom using causative-transitive verbs intransitively. This study presents experimental evidence corroborating the author's earlier finding that Quechua-speaking children’s overgeneralization errors observe the same asymmetry. The transitive variants of change-of-state verbs were elicited from 30 Peruvian children, aged 2;8-4;11. The ensuing discussion considers how Quechua-speaking children recover from this pattern of overgeneralization in light of constraints that have been proposed for children acquiring English, which is typologically very different from Quechua.

  • Quechua,
  • first language acquisition,
  • argument structure
Publication Date
February, 2010
Publisher Statement
The definitive version of this article was published in First Language (30, 1), February, 2010. DOI: 10.1177/0142723709350527
Citation Information
Ellen H Courtney. "Learning the meaning of verbs: insights from Quechua" First Language Vol. 30 Iss. 1 (2010)
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