Journal of Child Language

Articles

Japanese two-year-olds use morphosyntax to learn novel verb meanings*

AYUMI MATSUOa1 c1, SOTARO KITAa2, YURI SHINYAa3, GARY C. WOODa4 and LETITIA NAIGLESa5

a1 University of Sheffield

a2 University of Birmingham

a3 Kure National College of Technology

a4 University of Sheffield

a5 University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT

Previous research has found that children who are acquiring argument-drop languages such as Turkish and Chinese make use of syntactic frames to extend familiar verb meanings (Göksun, Küntay & Naigles, 2008; Lee & Naigles, 2008). This article investigates whether two-year-olds learning Japanese, another argument-drop language, make use of argument number and case markings in learning novel verbs. Children watched videos of novel causative and non-causative actions via Intermodal Preferential Looking. The novel verbs were presented in transitive or intransitive frames; the NPs in the transitive frames appeared ‘bare’ or with case markers. Consistent with previous findings of Morphosyntactic Bootstrapping, children who heard the novel verbs in the transitive frame with case markers reliably assigned those verbs to the novel causative actions.

(Received March 09 2009)

(Revised August 24 2010)

(Accepted May 22 2011)

(Online publication September 13 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: e-mail: a.matsuo@sheffield.ac.uk

Footnotes

[*] We would like to thank all the nurseries and children who participated in the study. We benefited from useful discussions with Kerstin Abbot-Smith and Aylin Küntay. This study was funded by Economic and Social Research Council in the UK (RES-000-22-1398).