Grammatical Form and Semantic Context in Verb Learning

Sudha Arunachalam*, Sandra R. Waxman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Decades of research have documented that young word learners have more difficulty learning verbs than nouns. Nonetheless, recent evidence has uncovered conditions under which children as young as 24 months succeed. Here, we focus in on the kind of linguistic information that undergirds 24-month-olds' success. We introduced 24-month-olds to novel words (either nouns or verbs) as they watched dynamic scenes (e.g., a man waving a balloon); the novel words were presented in semantic contexts that were either rich (e.g., The man is pilking a balloon) or more sparse (e.g., He's pilking it). Toddlers successfully learned nouns in both the semantically rich and sparse contexts but learned verbs only in the rich context. This documents that to learn the meaning of a novel verb, English-acquiring toddlers take advantage of the semantically rich information provided in lexicalized noun phrases. Implications for cross-linguistic theories of acquisition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Grammatical Form and Semantic Context in Verb Learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this