Can complement frames help children learn the meaning of abstract verbs?
Theories of language learning postulate a relatively simple, innate link between verb meaning and sentence structure. Syntactic bootstrapping predicts the use of known structure to help discover a novel word’s meaning. Sentences containing tensed complements were postulated to be especially useful, since their relationship with belief, communication and perception meanings is strong. The current goal was to test this relationship in a verb learning paradigm. In Experiment 1, three- to five-year-old children received a battery of tasks to assess their command of different complement structures and their ability to use them to fast map novel verbs from limited exposure in story contexts. In the fast mapping task, ambiguous story contexts introduced a novel verb with either an tensed or an infinitival complement, e.g. (1) Who daxed that the raccoon ate the corn? (2) Who daxed the raccoon to eat the corn? Five-year-old children succeeded at using the infinitival complement to narrow the me