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Semantic Scaffolding in L1A Syntax: Learning Raising-to-Object and Object Control
Susannah Kirby
52-59 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This research examined English-acquiring children's acquisition of raising-to-object and object control verbs (e.g., Suki wanted/asked [Dave to make breakfast]) by presenting 4- and 5-year-olds with sentence judgments involving these constructions. Results suggested that children did not parse each biclausal sentence in its entirety, but instead attended to the semantics of the smallest contiguous proposition within the utterance: the embedded clause. The analysis suggests that acquisition of these verbs is accomplished in part through "semantic scaffolding": a tactic of taking recourse to canonical semantics to support syntactic interpretation in cases of high cognitive load. Semantic scaffolding reflects a basic, extralinguistic cognitive conceptualization of eventhood, and appears to lie at the root of a number of crosslinguistic and cross-developmental patterns.

Published in

Proceedings of the 2009 Mind/Context Divide Workshop
edited by Michael Iverson, Ivan Ivanov, Tiffany Judy, Jason Rothman, Roumyana Slabakova, and Marta Tryzna
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Printed edition: $195.00