The Early Acquisition of Verb Constructions in Albanian: Evidence from Children’s Verb Use in Experimental Contexts
AbstractOne of the wonders of human development is children’s symbolic capacity to generate language that goes beyond the input received. The present study examines this developmental process with special focus on language typological factors. More specifically, it examines 2-and 3-year-old Albanian-speaking children’s ability to acquire transitive and intransitive constructions in an experimental context. Thirty 2- and 3-year old Albanian-speaking children divided into two age cohorts were trained and then tested using an elicited production task based on the novel verb paradigm. Findings reveal that Albanian-speaking children are precocious in their productivity with transitive and intransitive verb constructions. In contrast to much prior research on English-speaking children, results revealed that most Albanian-speaking children were able to productively use familiar and novel verbs in both transitive and intransitive constructions, regardless of age and whether they heard the novel verbs modeled in verb constructions tested. It is argued that languages with explicit markings for agent- patient relations facilitate an earlier onset of productivity than word-order languages like English. Additionally, results suggest that children’s capacity to diversely use familiar verbs affects the developmental process of acquiring new verbs including those used in novel verb experiments. Discussion focuses on the importance of using naturalistic experimental designs to construct a more comprehensive view of the process by which children acquire verb constructions and also considers the implications of the cross-linguistic findings for developmental theories of language acquisition.
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