A distributional learning account of the acquisition of the locative alternation: Corpus analysis and modeling


Early in acquisition children overgeneralize verbs to ungrammatical structures. The retreat from overgeneralization is linked to the acquisition of verb classes, the semantics of which constrain the structures in which a verb can appear (e.g., Pinker 1989; Ambridge, Pine & Rowland, 2012). How children learn these classes remains unclear. Some argue that distributional regularities in linguistic input provide sufficient evidence for verb classes to emerge and become linked to particular structures. A corpus analysis of the English locative construction (e.g., the woman sprayed water onto the wall/the wall with water) demonstrated that children have similar verb classes to adults. A correspondence analysis revealed that distributional regularities in the input could support these verb classes. Finally, a connectionist simulation was able to model early overgeneralization and retreat through distributional learning of verb classes. These results support a distributional learning account of verb semantics.

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