Bootstrapping word order in prelexical infants

A Japanese-Italian cross-linguistic study

Judit Gervain, Marina Nespor, Reiko Mazuka, Ryota Horie, Jacques Mehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Learning word order is one of the earliest feats infants accomplish during language acquisition [Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.]. Two theories have been proposed to account for this fact. Constructivist/lexicalist theories [Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition, 74(3), 209-253.] argue that word order is learned separately for each lexical item or construction. Generativist theories [Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.], on the other hand, claim that word order is an abstract and general property, determined from the input independently of individual words. Here, we show that eight-month-old Japanese and Italian infants have opposite order preferences in an artificial grammar experiment, mirroring the opposite word orders of their respective native languages. This suggests that infants possess some representation of word order prelexically, arguing for the generativist view. We propose a frequency-based bootstrapping mechanism to account for our results, arguing that infants might build this representation by tracking the order of functors and content words, identified through their different frequency distributions. We investigate frequency and word order patterns in infant-directed Japanese and Italian corpora to support this claim.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-74
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Psychology
Volume57
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Aug
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Syntactics
Linguistics
infant
linguistics
Experiments
Chomsky, N.
frequency distribution
language
language acquisition
grammar
cognition
experiment
learning

Keywords

  • Bootstrapping
  • Corpus
  • Headturn preference procedure
  • Infant-directed speech
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Language acquisition
  • Prelexical infants
  • Word order

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Bootstrapping word order in prelexical infants : A Japanese-Italian cross-linguistic study. / Gervain, Judit; Nespor, Marina; Mazuka, Reiko; Horie, Ryota; Mehler, Jacques.

In: Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 57, No. 1, 08.2008, p. 56-74.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Gervain, Judit ; Nespor, Marina ; Mazuka, Reiko ; Horie, Ryota ; Mehler, Jacques. / Bootstrapping word order in prelexical infants : A Japanese-Italian cross-linguistic study. In: Cognitive Psychology. 2008 ; Vol. 57, No. 1. pp. 56-74.
@article{f3b16212a108412e9a88bd7403f83100,
title = "Bootstrapping word order in prelexical infants: A Japanese-Italian cross-linguistic study",
abstract = "Learning word order is one of the earliest feats infants accomplish during language acquisition [Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.]. Two theories have been proposed to account for this fact. Constructivist/lexicalist theories [Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition, 74(3), 209-253.] argue that word order is learned separately for each lexical item or construction. Generativist theories [Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.], on the other hand, claim that word order is an abstract and general property, determined from the input independently of individual words. Here, we show that eight-month-old Japanese and Italian infants have opposite order preferences in an artificial grammar experiment, mirroring the opposite word orders of their respective native languages. This suggests that infants possess some representation of word order prelexically, arguing for the generativist view. We propose a frequency-based bootstrapping mechanism to account for our results, arguing that infants might build this representation by tracking the order of functors and content words, identified through their different frequency distributions. We investigate frequency and word order patterns in infant-directed Japanese and Italian corpora to support this claim.",
keywords = "Bootstrapping, Corpus, Headturn preference procedure, Infant-directed speech, Italian, Japanese, Language acquisition, Prelexical infants, Word order",
author = "Judit Gervain and Marina Nespor and Reiko Mazuka and Ryota Horie and Jacques Mehler",
year = "2008",
month = "8",
doi = "10.1016/j.cogpsych.2007.12.001",
language = "English",
volume = "57",
pages = "56--74",
journal = "Cognitive Psychology",
issn = "0010-0285",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Bootstrapping word order in prelexical infants

T2 - A Japanese-Italian cross-linguistic study

AU - Gervain, Judit

AU - Nespor, Marina

AU - Mazuka, Reiko

AU - Horie, Ryota

AU - Mehler, Jacques

PY - 2008/8

Y1 - 2008/8

N2 - Learning word order is one of the earliest feats infants accomplish during language acquisition [Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.]. Two theories have been proposed to account for this fact. Constructivist/lexicalist theories [Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition, 74(3), 209-253.] argue that word order is learned separately for each lexical item or construction. Generativist theories [Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.], on the other hand, claim that word order is an abstract and general property, determined from the input independently of individual words. Here, we show that eight-month-old Japanese and Italian infants have opposite order preferences in an artificial grammar experiment, mirroring the opposite word orders of their respective native languages. This suggests that infants possess some representation of word order prelexically, arguing for the generativist view. We propose a frequency-based bootstrapping mechanism to account for our results, arguing that infants might build this representation by tracking the order of functors and content words, identified through their different frequency distributions. We investigate frequency and word order patterns in infant-directed Japanese and Italian corpora to support this claim.

AB - Learning word order is one of the earliest feats infants accomplish during language acquisition [Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.]. Two theories have been proposed to account for this fact. Constructivist/lexicalist theories [Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition, 74(3), 209-253.] argue that word order is learned separately for each lexical item or construction. Generativist theories [Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.], on the other hand, claim that word order is an abstract and general property, determined from the input independently of individual words. Here, we show that eight-month-old Japanese and Italian infants have opposite order preferences in an artificial grammar experiment, mirroring the opposite word orders of their respective native languages. This suggests that infants possess some representation of word order prelexically, arguing for the generativist view. We propose a frequency-based bootstrapping mechanism to account for our results, arguing that infants might build this representation by tracking the order of functors and content words, identified through their different frequency distributions. We investigate frequency and word order patterns in infant-directed Japanese and Italian corpora to support this claim.

KW - Bootstrapping

KW - Corpus

KW - Headturn preference procedure

KW - Infant-directed speech

KW - Italian

KW - Japanese

KW - Language acquisition

KW - Prelexical infants

KW - Word order

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=45449087270&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=45449087270&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2007.12.001

DO - 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2007.12.001

M3 - Article

VL - 57

SP - 56

EP - 74

JO - Cognitive Psychology

JF - Cognitive Psychology

SN - 0010-0285

IS - 1

ER -