Acquiring Multiword Verbs: The Role of Statistical Evidence


In addition to words and grammar, young children learn a large number of multiword sequences that are semantically idiosyncratic and have particular syntactic behaviour, e.g., expressions formed from the combination of a verb and a noun, such as take the train and give a kiss. Given the high degree of polysemy of verbs that commonly participate in such constructions, an important question is what cues children use to identify (non-literal) multiword combinations. We provide evidence that certain statistical cues tapping into the properties of non-literal expressions are useful in separating these from literal combinations. Moreover, our experiments on naturally occurring child-directed data show that these cues are easily extractable from the input children receive.

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