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Constructions at WorkThe Nature of Generalization in Language$
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Adele Goldberg

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268511

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199268511.001.0001

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How argument structure constructions are learned 1

How argument structure constructions are learned 1

(p.69) 4 How argument structure constructions are learned1
Constructions at Work

Adele Goldberg (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Advances to our understanding of statistical learning mechanisms were not envisioned in the 1960s when the notion that critical aspects of grammar were unlearnable became dogma in the field of linguistics. This chapter joins the growing body of literature that detracts from the poverty of the stimulus argument by presenting evidence that the language input children receive provides more than adequate means by which learners can induce the association of meaning with certain argument structure patterns. Well-established categorization principles apply straightforwardly to this domain. This chapter outlines the first experimental studies to investigate novel construction learning. Results demonstrate that skewed input such that a single verb in a novel construction accounts for the preponderance of tokens, facilitates learners getting a ‘fix’ on the construction's meaning. One verb accounts for the lion's share of tokens of each argument frame considered in an extensive corpus study. In this way, grammatical constructions may arise developmentally as generalizations over lexical items in particular patterns.

Keywords:   poverty of the stimulus, learning, skewed input, statistical learning, categorization

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