Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-fv566 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-16T23:06:39.776Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Word order, referential expression, and case cues to the acquisition of transitive sentences in Italian*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2013

KIRSTEN ABBOT-SMITH*
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, University of Kent, UK
LUDOVICA SERRATRICE
Affiliation:
School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
*
Address for correspondence: Kirsten Abbot-Smith, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Keynes College, Canterbury CT2 7NP, UK. e-mail: K.Abbot-Smith@kent.ac.uk

Abstract

In Study 1 we analyzed Italian child-directed-speech (CDS) and selected the three most frequent active transitive sentence frames used with overt subjects. In Study 2 we experimentally investigated how Italian-speaking children aged 2;6, 3;6, and 4;6 comprehended these orders with novel verbs when the cues of animacy, gender, and subject–verb agreement were neutralized. For each trial, children chose between two videos (e.g., horse acting on cat versus cat acting on horse), both involving the same action. The children aged 2;6 comprehended S + object-pronoun + V (soprov) significantly better than S + V + object-noun (svonoun). We explain this in terms of cue collaboration between a low cost cue (case) and the firstargument = agent cue which we found to be reliable 76% of the time. The most difficult word order for all age groups was the object-pronoun + V + S (oprovs). We ascribe this difficulty to cue conflict between the two most frequent transitive frames found in CDS, namely V + object-noun and object-pronoun + V.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

[*]

Many thanks to Professor Chiara Cantiani for collecting the data, coding the standardized language subtest, and for having such a wonderful rapport with both children and nursery staff; to Dr Francesca Foppolo and Professor Maria-Teresa Guasti for help in setting up the study; to Gianluca Marvulli for editing the video and audio clips and for coding the Marco corpus; to Dr Francesca Roncarati for pointing coding reliabilities; to Samantha Durrant for scoring the MacArthur questionnaires; and especially to Anthony Mee at the University of Plymouth for writing such a wonderful stimuli presentation program, and to Caroline Rowland, the anonymous reviewers, and especially to the action editor for such detailed comments. A big thanks also to all the parents, children and ‘maestre’ at the following nurseries: Micronido Capiago, Allegra Brigata, Le coccinelle, Asilo nido ‘Magolibero’, L'aquilone, Marialuisa, Primi Passi, Cislaghi, micronido ‘Arcobaleno’, asilo nido ‘la girandola’, Scuola materna ‘Gianetti’, C. R. D. Valmadrera, C. R. D. ERBA, Scuola materna Buccinigo, and Scuola dell'infanzia ‘San Pio X’. This work was funded by a British Academy Small Grant SG-46233 to the first author. A poster of this study was presented at the 16th annual conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing on 6 September 2010 and it was also presented at the 12th conference of the Association for the Study of Child Language in Montreal in July 2011 thanks to a BA travel grant to the first author.

References

REFERENCES

Ammon, M., & Slobin, D. (1979). A cross-linguistic study of the processing of causative sentences. Cognition, 7: 317.Google Scholar
Arunachalam, S., & Waxman, S. R. (2010). Meaning from syntax: evidence from 2-year-olds. Cognition, 114, 442446.Google Scholar
Austin, P., & Bresnan, J. (1996). Non-configurationality in Australian aboriginal languages. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 14(2): 215268.Google Scholar
Bates, E., & MacWhinney, B. (1982). Functionalist approaches to grammar. In Gleitman, L. & Wanner, E. (Eds.), Language acquisition: the state of the art (pp. 173218). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bates, E., & MacWhinney, B. (1987). Competition, variation, and language learning. In MacWhinney, B. (Ed.), Mechanisms of language acquisition (pp. 157193). Hillsdale, NJ/London: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Bates, E., MacWhinney, B., Caselli, C., Devescovi, A., Natale, F., & Venza, V. (1984). A cross-linguistic study of the development of sentence interpretation strategies. Child Development, 55(2), 341354.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bever, T. G. (1970). The cognitive bias for linguistic structures. In Hayes, J. R. (Ed.), Cognition and the development of language (pp. 279362). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Cameron-Faulkner, T., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2003). A construction based analysis of child directed speech. Cognitive Science, 27(6), 843873.Google Scholar
Caselli, M., & Casadio, P. (1995). Fondazione ‘MacArthur’ Lo sviluppo communicative nella prima infanzia. Roma: Istituto di psicologia CNR.Google Scholar
Chan, A., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Children's understanding of the agent–patient relations in the transitive construction: cross-linguistic comparison between Cantonese, German and English. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(2), 267300.Google Scholar
Cianchetti, C., & Sannio Fancello, G. (1997). Test TVL. Test di valutazione del linguaggio. Livello prescolare. Trento: Centro Studi Erickson.Google Scholar
Cipriani, P., Pfanner, P., Chilosi, A., Cittadoni, L., Ciuti, A., Maccari, A., Pantano, N., Pfanner, L., Poli, P., Sarno, S., Bottari, P., Cappeli, G., Colombo, C., & Veneziano, E. (1989). Protocolli diagnostici e terapeutici nello sviluppo e nella patologia del linguaggio (1/84 Italian Ministry of Health). Pisa: Stella Maris Foundation.Google Scholar
D'Amico, S., & Devescovi, A. (1993). Processi di comprensione dei bambini italiani: i'interpretazione della frase semplice. In Guasti, E. & Moneglia, M. (Eds.), Ricerche sull' acquisizione dell' italiano (pp. 273290). Roma: Bulzon.Google Scholar
Devescovi, A., D'Amico, S., & Gentile, P. (1999). The development of sentence comprehension in Italian: a reaction time study. First Language, 19, 129163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Villiers, J. G., & de Villiers, P. A. (1973). Development of the use of word order in comprehension. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2(4), 331341.Google Scholar
Dittmar, M., Abbot-Smith, K., Lieven, E. V. M., & Tomasello, M. (2008). German children's comprehension of word order and case marking in causative sentences. Child Development, 79(4), 11521167.Google Scholar
Dittmar, M., Abbot-Smith, K., Lieven, E. V. M., & Tomasello, M. (2011). Children aged 2;1 use transitive syntax to make a semantic-role interpretation in a pointing task. Journal of Child Language, 38(5), 11091123.Google Scholar
Du Bois, J. (1987). The discourse basis of ergativity. Language, 63, 805855.Google Scholar
Gertner, Y., & Fisher, C. (2012). Predicted errors in early verb learning. Cognition, 124, 8594.Google Scholar
Gertner, Y., Fisher, C., & Eisengart, J. (2006). Learning words and rules: abstract knowledge of word order in early sentence comprehension. Psychological Science 17(8), 684691.Google Scholar
Göksun, T., Küntay, A., & Naigles, L. R. (2008). Turkish children use morphosyntactic bootstrapping in interpreting verb meaning. Journal of Child Language, 35(2), 291323.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hakuta, K. (1982). Interaction between particles and word order in the comprehension of simple sentences in Japanese children. Developmental Psychology, 18, 6276.Google Scholar
Kempe, V., & MacWhinney, B. (1998). The acquisition of case marking by adult learners of Russian and German. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 20, 543587.Google Scholar
Kempe, V., & MacWhinney, B. (1999). Processing of morphological and semantic cues in Russian and German. Language and Cognitive Processes, 14(2), 129171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lorusso, P., Caprin, C., & Guasti, M. (2005). Overt subject distribution in early Italian children. In Brugos, A., Clark-Cotton, M., & Ha, S. (Eds.), A supplement to the proceedings of the 29th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
MacWhinney, B. J. (2000). The CHILDES project: tools for analyzing talk (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
MacWhinney, B. J., Bates, E., & Kliegl, R. (1984). Cue validity and sentence interpretation in English, German and Italian. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23, 127150.Google Scholar
Matessa, M., & Anderson, J. R. (2000). Modelling focused learning in role assignment. Language and Cognitive Processes, 15(3), 263292.Google Scholar
Matsuo, A., Kita, S., Shinya, Y., Wood, G., & Naigles, L. (2012). Japanese two-year-olds use morphosyntax to learn verb meanings. Journal of Child Language, 39(3): 637663.Google Scholar
McDonald, J. L., & MacWhinney, B. J. (1995). The time course of anaphor resolution: effects of implicit verb causality and gender. Journal of Memory and Language, 34, 543566.Google Scholar
Mintz, T. (2003). Frequent frames as a cue for grammatical categories in child-directed speech. Cognition, 90, 91117.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Noble, C., Rowland, C., & Pine, J. (2011). Comprehension of argument structure and semantic roles: evidence from English-learning children and the forced-choice pointing paradigm. Cognitive Science, 35(5), 963982.Google Scholar
Pinto, M. (1997). Licensing and interpretation of inverted subjects in Italian (UiLOTS Dissertation Series). Utrecht: Utrechts Instituut voor Linguistiek.Google Scholar
Serratrice, L. (2005). The role of discourse pragmatics in the acquisition of subjects in Italian. Applied Psycholinguistics, 26(3), 437462.Google Scholar
Slobin, D. I. (1982). Universal and particular in the acquisition of language. In Gleitman, L. R. & Wanner, E. (Eds.), Language acquisition: the state of the art (pp. 128170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Slobin, D. I., & Bever, T. G. (1982). Children use canonical sentence schemas: a crosslinguistic study of word order and inflections. Cognition, 12, 229265.Google Scholar
Sokolov, J. L. (1988). Cue validity in Hebrew sentence comprehension. Journal of Child Language, 15, 129155.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tomasello, M., & Akthar, N. (1995). Two-year-olds use pragmatic cues to differentiate reference to objects and actions. Cognitive Development, 10, 201224.Google Scholar
Tonelli, L., & Fabris, M. (2005). L'acquisizione della flessione verbale – esemplificazione di un metodo di ricerca. AnnalSS 2, 1334.Google Scholar
Wells, C. G. (1981). Learning through interaction: the study of language development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar