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Language acquisition and verb learning

Trainee Achievements

Language acquisition and verb learning

Verbs provide the skeleton that gives shape to a sentence; verb learning is key to language acquisition. How much does a child need to learn about a specific verb to master its use? Consider 'Kay sliced the fruit with a knife yesterday'. Specific knowledge about 'slice' is needed to understand the resulting state of the fruit, but not the meaning of 'yesterday;' the fruit is an *argument* whereas yesterday is an *adjunct*. Although arguments and adjuncts are cognitively quite different, many cases including *instruments* have an unclear status: is the role of 'the knife here dependent on specific properties of 'slice', or simply the properties of 'with'? Trainee Lilia Rissman is providing a precise answer using the methods of formal semantics, and with the support of current experimental work, is documenting how the status of instruments as arguments or adjuncts varies depends on the cognitive representation of specific-verb knowledge.