Fast mapping from argument structure alone

Sudha Arunachalam, Sandra R. Waxman


Parents often utter verbs when their referents are not co-present. We therefore ask whether toddlers can discover a verb’s meaning from its argument structure alone. Toddlers (21-months) heard a novel verb in either transitive or intransitive sentences. They then viewed two test scenes, a causative and a synchronous event, and heard, “Find dacking!” Within 2.5s of the novel verb’s onset, toddlers who had heard transitive sentences reliably preferred the causative scene. The results (1) indicate that 21-month-olds discover verb meaning using argument structure cues, even absent a co-occurring event, and (2) establish the time-course with which 21-month-olds process novel verbs.

Full Text: