Annual Review of Language Acquisition: Volume 1 (2001)
  • ISSN 1568-1467
  • E-ISSN: 1569-965X
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In the literature, John threw the ball up and The baby threw his dinner up have both been treated as members of the set of verb particle constructions (VPC). Syntactic evidence from action nominalizations, insertion of degree adverbials, contrastive stress, and gapped constructions (Fraser, 1976) suggests that the VPC must be bifurcated into two classes: a verb adverb construction (VAC) containing a verb, a complement, and an adverb and a VPC with a verb, complement, and a particle. Literature on the acquisition of the VPC has not taken this distinction into account. This article focuses on the acquisition of the VAC. The patterning on syntactic tests is a result of the fact that adverbs are predicators and particles are not. Additional syntactic tests (initial coordination of adverbs and adverbs+PPs and placing locative adverbs in argument positions) suggest that adverbs (not particles) are phrasal constituents: the adverb takes the apparent object as its subject. The bifurcation of the VPC and the suggested structure are supported by evidence from child language acquisition. Children treat the two constructions differently from the earliest stages. Crucially, the overwhelming error (79%) in VAC use is dropping the grammatical object. The timing of this error corresponds to that of subject drop in the null subject stage.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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