Children’s early acquisition of the passive: evidence from syntactic priming

Katherine Thatcher, Holly P. Branigan, Janet F. McLean, Antonella Sorace

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

We report an experiment that examined 3- and 4-year-old children’s representation of the passive structure. Early studies of typically-developing children’s acquisition of the passive suggest that this construction is acquired late and – or that its acquisition is semantically constrained: children comprehend actives much earlier than passives and comprehend actional verb passives earlier than non-actional verb passives (Maratsos, Fox, Becker & Chalkley, 1985). Conversely, some production studies have shown the passive is acquired earlier than thought: 3-4 year old children produce passives following training (Brooks & Tomasello, 1999) and priming (Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva & Shimpi, 2004), however, such studies have not examined whether the passive is constrained to actional verbs early on. We report a syntactic priming study that manipulated Prime Structure (active vs. passive) and Verb Type (actional vs. non-actional). We found a strong and reliable effect of Prime Structure for children (27%) and adult controls (19%). There was, however, no effect of Verb Type (Fs <2). Participants were more likely to produce passive targets following passive primes than active primes, irrespective of the verb. We conclude that children do acquire an abstract syntactic representation for the passive early on (by 3-4 years)that is not constrained by verb type.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar
Subtitle of host publication30th anniversary
EditorsTheodoros Marinis, Angeliki Papangeli, Vesna Stojanovik
Place of PublicationReading
PublisherUniversity of Reading
Pages187-196
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventChild Language Seminar 2007: 30th anniversary - University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Jul 200720 Jul 2007
Conference number: 30

Seminar

SeminarChild Language Seminar 2007
Abbreviated titleCLS 2007
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityReading
Period18/07/0720/07/07

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Thatcher, K., Branigan, H. P., McLean, J. F., & Sorace, A. (2008). Children’s early acquisition of the passive: evidence from syntactic priming. In T. Marinis, A. Papangeli, & V. Stojanovik (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar: 30th anniversary (pp. 187-196). Reading: University of Reading.
Thatcher, Katherine ; Branigan, Holly P. ; McLean, Janet F. ; Sorace, Antonella. / Children’s early acquisition of the passive : evidence from syntactic priming. Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar: 30th anniversary. editor / Theodoros Marinis ; Angeliki Papangeli ; Vesna Stojanovik. Reading : University of Reading, 2008. pp. 187-196
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abstract = "We report an experiment that examined 3- and 4-year-old children’s representation of the passive structure. Early studies of typically-developing children’s acquisition of the passive suggest that this construction is acquired late and – or that its acquisition is semantically constrained: children comprehend actives much earlier than passives and comprehend actional verb passives earlier than non-actional verb passives (Maratsos, Fox, Becker & Chalkley, 1985). Conversely, some production studies have shown the passive is acquired earlier than thought: 3-4 year old children produce passives following training (Brooks & Tomasello, 1999) and priming (Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva & Shimpi, 2004), however, such studies have not examined whether the passive is constrained to actional verbs early on. We report a syntactic priming study that manipulated Prime Structure (active vs. passive) and Verb Type (actional vs. non-actional). We found a strong and reliable effect of Prime Structure for children (27{\%}) and adult controls (19{\%}). There was, however, no effect of Verb Type (Fs <2). Participants were more likely to produce passive targets following passive primes than active primes, irrespective of the verb. We conclude that children do acquire an abstract syntactic representation for the passive early on (by 3-4 years)that is not constrained by verb type.",
author = "Katherine Thatcher and Branigan, {Holly P.} and McLean, {Janet F.} and Antonella Sorace",
year = "2008",
language = "English",
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editor = "Theodoros Marinis and Angeliki Papangeli and Vesna Stojanovik",
booktitle = "Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar",
publisher = "University of Reading",

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Thatcher, K, Branigan, HP, McLean, JF & Sorace, A 2008, Children’s early acquisition of the passive: evidence from syntactic priming. in T Marinis, A Papangeli & V Stojanovik (eds), Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar: 30th anniversary. University of Reading, Reading, pp. 187-196, Child Language Seminar 2007, Reading, United Kingdom, 18/07/07.

Children’s early acquisition of the passive : evidence from syntactic priming. / Thatcher, Katherine; Branigan, Holly P.; McLean, Janet F.; Sorace, Antonella.

Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar: 30th anniversary. ed. / Theodoros Marinis; Angeliki Papangeli; Vesna Stojanovik. Reading : University of Reading, 2008. p. 187-196.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

TY - GEN

T1 - Children’s early acquisition of the passive

T2 - evidence from syntactic priming

AU - Thatcher, Katherine

AU - Branigan, Holly P.

AU - McLean, Janet F.

AU - Sorace, Antonella

PY - 2008

Y1 - 2008

N2 - We report an experiment that examined 3- and 4-year-old children’s representation of the passive structure. Early studies of typically-developing children’s acquisition of the passive suggest that this construction is acquired late and – or that its acquisition is semantically constrained: children comprehend actives much earlier than passives and comprehend actional verb passives earlier than non-actional verb passives (Maratsos, Fox, Becker & Chalkley, 1985). Conversely, some production studies have shown the passive is acquired earlier than thought: 3-4 year old children produce passives following training (Brooks & Tomasello, 1999) and priming (Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva & Shimpi, 2004), however, such studies have not examined whether the passive is constrained to actional verbs early on. We report a syntactic priming study that manipulated Prime Structure (active vs. passive) and Verb Type (actional vs. non-actional). We found a strong and reliable effect of Prime Structure for children (27%) and adult controls (19%). There was, however, no effect of Verb Type (Fs <2). Participants were more likely to produce passive targets following passive primes than active primes, irrespective of the verb. We conclude that children do acquire an abstract syntactic representation for the passive early on (by 3-4 years)that is not constrained by verb type.

AB - We report an experiment that examined 3- and 4-year-old children’s representation of the passive structure. Early studies of typically-developing children’s acquisition of the passive suggest that this construction is acquired late and – or that its acquisition is semantically constrained: children comprehend actives much earlier than passives and comprehend actional verb passives earlier than non-actional verb passives (Maratsos, Fox, Becker & Chalkley, 1985). Conversely, some production studies have shown the passive is acquired earlier than thought: 3-4 year old children produce passives following training (Brooks & Tomasello, 1999) and priming (Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva & Shimpi, 2004), however, such studies have not examined whether the passive is constrained to actional verbs early on. We report a syntactic priming study that manipulated Prime Structure (active vs. passive) and Verb Type (actional vs. non-actional). We found a strong and reliable effect of Prime Structure for children (27%) and adult controls (19%). There was, however, no effect of Verb Type (Fs <2). Participants were more likely to produce passive targets following passive primes than active primes, irrespective of the verb. We conclude that children do acquire an abstract syntactic representation for the passive early on (by 3-4 years)that is not constrained by verb type.

M3 - Conference contribution

SP - 187

EP - 196

BT - Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar

A2 - Marinis, Theodoros

A2 - Papangeli, Angeliki

A2 - Stojanovik, Vesna

PB - University of Reading

CY - Reading

ER -

Thatcher K, Branigan HP, McLean JF, Sorace A. Children’s early acquisition of the passive: evidence from syntactic priming. In Marinis T, Papangeli A, Stojanovik V, editors, Proceedings of the 2007 Child Language Seminar: 30th anniversary. Reading: University of Reading. 2008. p. 187-196