Development of Verb Morphology: From Item-Specificity to Proficient Use

AbstractThe initial phase of linguistic production by children is characterized by rote-learned, lexically restricted constructions. Later children develop flexibility across a paradigm and mix lexical and grammatical material more freely. During verb morphology development, a correlation between tense and aspect is observed in many languages. It has been suggested that this leads to an intermediary state of paradigm categorization based on temporal categories. So far the flexibility of individual verbs occurring in different tense-aspect combinations has not been examined in detail. Here we evaluate the flexibility of verb use in a large longitudinal corpus of 4 Russian children. We compute the Shannon entropy of stems distributed over individual grammatical forms. Results show that children do not pass through a stage of paradigm categorization based on aspecto-temporal categories. After a brief item-specific phase of rote-learned forms, they quickly become flexible users of verbs in both aspects.

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