Children use canonical sentence schemas: A crosslinguistic study of word order and inflections

Dan I. Slobin, Thomas G Bever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

232 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We propose that children construct a canonical sentence schema as a preliminary organizing structure for language behavior. The canonical sentence embodies the typical features of complete clauses in the input language, and serves as a framework for the application of productive and perceptual strategies. The canonical sentence schema offers a functional explanation of word-order and inflectional strategies based on the child's attempts to quickly master basic communication skills in his or her language. The present research explores sensitivity to the canonical sentence form and to word-order and inflectional perceptual strategies for comprehending simple transitive sentences in monolingual children aged 2;0 to 4;4 in four languages: English (ordered, uninflectional), Italian (weakly ordered, weakly inflectional), Serbo-Croatian (weakly ordered, inflectional), Turkish (minimally ordered, inflectional). The results show that children fail to respond systematically to sequences that violate the canonical sentence form of their particular language. They develop distinct word-order and inflectional strategies appropriate to the regularities of their language. The early behavioral emergence of linguistically appropriate canonical sentences and processing strategies suggests a behavioral foundation for linguistic constraints on the surface form of sentences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-265
Number of pages37
JournalCognition
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Language
language
language behavior
regularity
communication skills
English language
Linguistics
Inflection
Cross-linguistic Studies
linguistics
Communication
Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Children use canonical sentence schemas : A crosslinguistic study of word order and inflections. / Slobin, Dan I.; Bever, Thomas G.

In: Cognition, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1982, p. 229-265.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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