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German children's productivity with simple transitive and complement-clause constructions : testing the effects of frequency and diversity

Brandt, Silke and Verhagen, Arie and Lieven, Elena and Tomasello, Michael (2011) German children's productivity with simple transitive and complement-clause constructions : testing the effects of frequency and diversity. Cognitive Linguistics, 22 (2). pp. 325-357. ISSN 0936-5907

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The development of abstract schemas and productive rules in language is affected by both token and type frequencies. High token frequencies and surface similarities help to discover formal and functional commonalities between utterances and categorize them as instances of the same schema. High type frequencies and diversity help to develop slots in these schemas, which allow the production and comprehension of novel utterances. In the current study we looked at both token and type frequencies in two related constructions in German child-directed speech: simple transitive and complement-clause constructions. Both constructions contain high frequency verbs, which potentially support the development of verb-specific schemas. However only the frequent verbs in the transitive constructions occur with a variety of subject types, which also supports the development of a slot in the subject position. We then used an elicited production task to compare 4- and 5-year-old German-speaking children's productivity with simple transitive constructions and complement-clause constructions. The children were prompted to change the subjects of high and low frequency simple transitive verbs, such as essen 'eat' and naschen 'nibble', mental-state complement-taking verbs, such as denken 'think' and vermuten 'presume', and communication complement-taking verbs, such as sagen 'say' and berichten 'report'. In accordance with earlier findings, children had less difficulty producing new utterances with high frequency transitive verbs than with low frequency transitive verbs. For the other verb classes, however we found either reverse frequency effects or no frequency effects. For these verb classes, children's productivity can be determined by diversity rather than simple token frequency. We discuss how token frequency interacts with diversity, discourse function, semantic complexity, and syntactic complexity

Item Type: Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title: Cognitive Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Frequency ; diversity ; productivity ; complement clause ; transitive ; discourse function
Subjects: ?? p1 ??
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Linguistics & English Language
ID Code: 58815
Deposited By: ep_importer_pure
Deposited On: 03 Oct 2012 13:45
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2018 00:44
Identification Number:

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