Reevaluating the role of innate linking rules in the acquisition of verb argument structure

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The present study examines the hypothesis that the acquisition of Verb Argument Structure (VAS) is regulated by a set of universal, innate linking rules between thematic roles and syntactic functions (Pinker 1984) against the hypothesis that linking patterns are learned (Bowerman 1990). The study draws on naturalistic longitudinal speech samples from two Hebrew-speaking girls between ages 1;5–2;9 [MLU 1 – 4.5]. The findings show no advantage for the innate linking hypothesis. Instead, they support the hypothesis whereby children initially acquire VAS on the basis of linguistic experience with individual verbs (Tomasello 1992). In this process, input plays an important role.


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