Input effects on the acquisition of a novel phrasal construction in 5year olds

Elizabeth Wonnacott, Jeremy K. Boyd, Jennifer Thomson, Adele E. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The present experiments demonstrate that children as young as five years old (M=5:2) generalize beyond their input on the basis of minimal exposure to a novel argument structure construction. The novel construction that was used involved a non-English phrasal pattern: VN 1N 2, paired with a novel abstract meaning: N 2 approaches N 1. At the same time, we find that children are keenly sensitive to the input: they show knowledge of the construction after a single day of exposure but this grows stronger after 3days; also, children generalize more readily to new verbs when the input contains more than one verb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-478
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Artificial language learning
  • Novel construction learning
  • Statistical learning
  • Verb argument structures


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