The Development of Causal Structure without a Language Model

Lilia Rissman*, Susan Goldin-Meadow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Across a diverse range of languages, children proceed through similar stages in their production of causal language: their initial verbs lack internal causal structure, followed by a period during which they produce causative overgeneralizations, indicating knowledge of a productive causative rule. We asked in this study whether a child not exposed to structured linguistic input could create linguistic devices for encoding causation and, if so, whether the emergence of this causal language would follow a trajectory similar to the one observed for children learning language from linguistic input. We show that the child in our study did develop causation-encoding morphology, but only after initially using verbs that lacked internal causal structure. These results suggest that the ability to encode causation linguistically can emerge in the absence of a language model, and that exposure to linguistic input is not the only factor guiding children from one stage to the next in their production of causal language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-299
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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