Events / ILST seminar: Laurel Perkins

ILST seminar: Laurel Perkins

September 16, 2022
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B, 3401 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Laurel Perkins
Department of Linguistics


Linguistic and event representations in early verb learning


In order to learn the meanings of new verbs, children relate their linguistic representations of the sentences containing those verbs, and their conceptual representations of events in the world. To determine how they do this, we need to understand (1) how young children view particular events, independent of language, (2) how they represent the structure of particular sentences they hear, and (3) how they expect linguistic and event structure to correspond to each other. In this talk, I’ll discuss a series of studies investigating the correspondence principles that drive some of the earliest stages of verb learning in infancy. Specifically, we ask whether infants primarily expect one-to-one correspondence between clause arguments and event participants, or whether they rely on links between syntactic positions and thematic relations, e.g. transitive subject to agent and object to patient. I will (i) show that infants view certain scenes under a concept with three participant relations (a girl taking a truck from a boy), and (ii) show that toddlers do not expect these representations to align numerically with clauses used to describe those scenes: they readily accept two-argument descriptions (e.g., “she pimmed the truck!”). These results suggest that learners’ bootstrapping inferences may privilege grammatical and thematic content above the number of arguments in a clause. I’ll end by discussing plans to extend this work to potential 4-place event predicates, such as ‘trading.’