More Syntactic Bootstrapping

Today, Elia Martin came to talk about his Senior Research Project in linguistics! His experiment looked at how infants use syntactic bootstrapping to learn new words and how this changes between sixteen-month olds infants who already have been producing verbs (have more developed processes) and those who haven’t. Earlier studies had found that the more developed sixteen-month olds and nineteen-month olds were worse at identifying the unknown word in the sentence “She’s pushing with the tig.”¬†Corpus analysis suggested that the more linguistically adept infants knew from experience that noun phrases often followed push (so they were expecting “She’s pushing the tig”) and therefore they predicted incorrectly that the new word ought to be a noun phrase. In other words, the kids¬†were being tricked. They did a further experiment to confirm this hypothesis, which it did.

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