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The syntactic and semantic features of two-year-olds’ verb vocabularies: a comparison of typically developing children and late talkers

  • Sabrina HORVATH (a1), Leslie RESCORLA (a2) and Sudha ARUNACHALAM (a3)

Children with language disorders have particular difficulty with verbs, but when this difficulty emerges is unknown. We examined syntactic (transitive, intransitive, ditransitive) and semantic (manner, result) features of two-year-olds’ verb vocabularies, contrasting late talkers and typically developing children to look for early differences in verb vocabulary. We conducted a retrospective analysis of parent-reported expressive vocabulary from the Language Development Survey (N = 564, N(LT) = 62) (Rescorla, 1989). Verbs were coded for the presence or absence of each syntactic and semantic feature. Binomial mixed-effects regressions revealed the effect of feature on children's knowledge and whether feature interacted with group classification. Our results revealed mostly similarities between late talkers and typically developing children. All children's vocabularies showed a bias against verbs that occur in ditransitive frames. One feature showed a difference between groups: late talkers showed a bias against manner verbs that typically developing children did not.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences; Boston, MA 02215, USA. E-mail:
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