Spatial adjectives in Dutch child language: Towards a usage-based model of adjective acquisition

TitleSpatial adjectives in Dutch child language: Towards a usage-based model of adjective acquisition
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsTribushinina, E.
Secondary AuthorsParadis, C., Hudson J., & Magnusson U.
Book TitleThe Construal of Spatial Meaning: Windows into Conceptual Space
Series TitleExplorations in language and space
Volume7
Pagination263-286
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford
ISBN9780199641635
Abstract

This paper tests the predictions of three hypotheses about the acquisition of spatial adjectives – semantic feature hypothesis, haphazard example hypothesis, and best exemplar hypothesis – against longitudinal data from Dutch. The results suggest that none of the existing hypotheses can fully accommodate the naturalistic longitudinal data. An alternative usage-based approach is introduced in order to overcome the shortcomings of the three existing models. I claim that children store specific adjective-noun/object pairings from the input and start by reproducing these prefabs with the same communicative function as in the language they hear around them. This explains why relative frequencies of spatial adjectives in child speech are strongly correlated with child-directed speech and why children often use spatial adjectives to express contrast. After having stored a critical mass of exemplars, toddlers start generalizing over the specific instances. This stage is characterized by the formation of abstract semantic categories and by overgeneralization (combinability) errors.

Refereed DesignationRefereed