a1 Department of Psychology, McGill University
a2 NTT Communication Science Labs, NTT Corporation
a3 Department of Psychology, Concordia University
The present study investigated whether children's representations of morphosyntactic information are abstract enough to guide early verb learning. Using an infant-controlled habituation paradigm with a switch design, Japanese-speaking children aged 1 ; 8 were habituated to two different events in which an object was engaging in an action. Each event was paired with a novel word embedded in a single intransitive verb sentence frame. The results indicated that only 40% of the children were able to map a novel verb onto the action when the mapping task was complex. However, by simplifying the mapping task, 88% of the children succeeded in verb–action mapping. There were no differences in perceptual salience between the agent and action switches in the task. These results provide strong evidence that Japanese-speaking children aged 1 ; 8 are able to use an intransitive verb sentence frame to guide early verb learning unless the mapping task consumes too much of their cognitive resources.
(Received February 14 2009)
(Revised September 25 2009)
(Accepted January 30 2010)
(Online publication September 01 2010)
[*] This research was supported by grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Tokyo University of Social Welfare. We thank the mothers and children for their participation in this study, as well as Riichi Takayanagi, Director of Isesaki Health Center, for his assistance in recruiting participants, and Reiko Itsubo, Akira Kimura, Tomoko Kawaguchi and Kaori Yuruki for their assistance in collecting the data. We also thank Linda Polka, Rachel Mayberry, Marina Takane, Jillian Satin, Simcha Samuel and Marie Lippeveld for their helpful comments and suggestions.