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Title: The role of the verb in the development of syntax : evidence from the structural priming paradigm
Author: Peter, Michelle Sabrina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 0085
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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In recent years, researchers have tended to use structural priming to distinguish between the core predictions of nativist and constructivist theories of syntax acquisition. Although this has been useful for our understanding of what early syntactic knowledge is like, this focus on children’s initial representations, rather than on the process of development, means that it is still unclear how children’s syntactic knowledge becomes adult-like. To address this issue, this thesis used structural priming to investigate the role of the verb in the development of syntax. In particular, the present work explored how two lexical effects - verb overlap and verb bias – influence structure choice in children and adults for dative and transitive structures. A number of conclusions were drawn: First, the present work revealed there to be a complex relationship between knowledge about syntactic structure and knowledge about verbs; children as young as three have already formed abstract representations of the dative structure, but have also already begun to learn the syntactic preferences of dative verbs. Thus, it was concluded that neither nativist nor constructivist theories can fully explain the abstract and lexical patterning of children’s early syntactic knowledge. Second, the findings showed that experience with verbs is important for the strengthening of verb-structure links across development. Third, the present work indicated that adults seem to track the frequency with which verbs occur in their syntactic structures, and that this knowledge can affect the way in which these syntactic representations are stored and activated. The implications of these findings for theories of syntactic development are discussed, and future directions for research are considered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology