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Title: The retreat from overgeneralisation errors : a multiple-paradigm approach
Author: Bidgood, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 3131
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines children’s argument structure overgeneralisation errors (e.g. *Don’t giggle me!). Errors of this kind arise from children observing that certain verbs can appear in more than one argument structure (e.g. The ball rolled/Homer rolled the ball). This pattern can be usefully generalised to allow children who have heard a verb produced in only one of these structures (e.g. The window opened) to produce it in the other (e.g. Marge opened the window). The ability to generalise patterns to new items is key to children becoming productive language users. However, if they overgeneralise this pattern, errors will result: Bart giggled is grammatical, but *Lisa giggled Bart (meaning Lisa made Bart giggle) is not. This thesis tested three hypotheses designed to explain how children retreat from such overgeneralisation errors, or, indeed, avoid making them altogether: the semantic verb class hypothesis (Pinker, 1989); the entrenchment hypothesis (Braine & Brooks, 1995); and the preemption hypothesis (Goldberg, 1995). Chapter 3 uses a novel-verb grammaticality judgment paradigm to investigate overgeneralisation errors in the locative construction (e.g. *Marge filled tea into the cup). Chapter 4 investigates overgeneralisation errors in the transitive and intransitive constructions, using a grammaticality judgment paradigm with known verbs, as well as a production priming paradigm designed to elicit errors from young children (e.g. *Homer swam the fish). Finally, in order to investigate the role of semantics in language development more generally, Chapter 5 moves beyond overgeneralisation errors to investigate children’s acquisition of the passive construction (e.g. Bart was helped by Lisa). This thesis adds to a growing body of work demonstrating that none of the individual theories (semantics, entrenchment, preemption) alone is able to explain children’s retreat from overgeneralisation, and that an integrated approach, such as that proposed by Ambridge and colleagues’ FIT account, is required to account for the data. The thesis moves our understanding forward by demonstrating both that this account can explain error patterns in production, and that the role of verb-in-construction semantic compatibility (a key aspect of the FIT account) can explain children’s acquisition of argument structure more widely.
Supervisor: Ambridge, B. ; Pine, J. ; Rowland, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral