Children use syntax to guide verb learning in a process known as syntactic bootstrapping. Recent work explores how syntactic bootstrapping works—how it begins, and how it interacts with progress in syntax acquisition. We review evidence for three claims about the mechanisms and representations underlying syntactic bootstrapping: (1) Learners are biased to represent linguistic knowledge in a usefully abstract mental vocabulary, permitting rapid generalization of newly acquired syntactic knowledge to new verbs. (2) Toddlers collect information about each verb's combinatorial behavior in sentences based on listening experience, before they know anything about the verb's semantic content. (3) Syntactic bootstrapping begins with an unlearned bias to map nouns in sentences one‐to‐one onto the participant roles in events. These lines of evidence point toward a picture of early verb learning in which shallow structural analyses of sentences are intrinsically meaningful to learners, and in which information about verbs' combinatorial behavior pervades the lexicon from very early in development. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
In the Spotlight
Konrad Körding is Assistant Professor of Physiology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, part of Northwestern University. Before joining Northwestern in 2006, Professor Körding worked in three different research groups, most recently in 2004-2005 at MIT, studying machine learning and hierarchical Bayesian models.
Professor Körding is a member of the Swiss Society for Neuroscience, the German Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Neuroscience (USA) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Professor Körding’s current research with the Bayesian Behavior group aims to improve rehabilitation procedures through a greater understanding of motor learning. In order to do this the team studies how people move, and how these movements are affected by uncertainty.Learn More