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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role of Verb-Event Structure in Children’s Lexical Ambiguity Resolution


Recent evidence indicates that children represent and learn multiple meanings of ambiguous words from early in development (e.g., mail letter, alphabetic letter). This raises the question of which naturalistic factors might allow young children to resolve lexical ambiguities. Previous research has shown that children’s processing of ambiguous words is facilitated by verb-related information. However, it is still unclear whether such facilitation comes from bottom-up (lexical associations) or top-down information sources (verb-event structures). In this study, we leveraged a large sense-annotated child-directed speech corpus to disentangle the effect of bottom-up lexical and top-down event structure cues. Preliminary results show that 4-year-olds might rely on verb-event structures when these are put in competition with lexical association. We discuss implications for theories of sentence parsing and word learning.

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