An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences
Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker
IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 1.066
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Interpreting resultative sentences in German: Stages in L1 acquisition
This article presents the results of a study on the interpretation and acceptance of adjectival resultatives of German children between 6 and 9 years of age and adults. These results brought to light significant differences, due to age, in the interpretation and acceptance of these resultatives, that is to say, sentences with an adjective in the final position. The youngest participants were prone to accept ungrammatical sentences by assigning a resultative meaning. The ungrammaticality of the sentences in question was not due to semantic inconsistencies but to violations of the selectional properties of verbs, as for instance in *die Kinder erschrecken die Katze ängstlich ‘the children frighten the cat scared’. In contrast, the adults rejected or amended those sentences. The conclusion is (a) that the children seemed to rely on the sentence structure as a primary cue to compute the meaning of an utterance and (b) that, in contrast with adults, the youngest children in particular had not yet learned the relevant semantic properties of verbs that determine the selectional restrictions and thus the syntactic options of verbs. This means that differences in interpretation and acceptance of sentences are due to differences in knowledge of semantic verb properties between adults and children. The relevant semantic knowledge increases in gradual stages during language acquisition.
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