Learning argument structure generalizations

Adele E. Goldberg, Devin M. Casenhiser, Nitya Sethuraman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

276 Scopus citations


General correlations between form and meaning at the level of argument structure patterns have often been assumed to be innate. Claims of innateness typically rest on the idea that the input is not rich enough for general learning strategies to yield the required representations. The present work demonstrates that the semantics associated with argument structure generalizations can indeed be learned, given the nature of the input and an understanding of general categorization strategies. Examination of an extensive corpus study of children's and mothers' speech shows that tokens of one particular verb are found to account for the lion's share of instances of each argument frame considered. Experimental results are reported that demonstrate that high token frequency of a single prototypical exemplar facilitates the learning of constructional meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-316
Number of pages28
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Categorization
  • Constructions
  • Frequency
  • Learning


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