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Effects of both preemption and entrenchment in the retreat from verb overgeneralization errors: four reanalyses, an extended replication, and a meta-analytic synthesis

Ambridge, B; Barak, L; Wonnacott, E; Bannard, C; Sala, G; (2018) Effects of both preemption and entrenchment in the retreat from verb overgeneralization errors: four reanalyses, an extended replication, and a meta-analytic synthesis. Collabra: Psychology , 4 (1) , Article 23. 10.1525/collabra.133. Green open access

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Abstract

How do speakers avoid producing verb overgeneralization errors such as *She covered paint onto the wall or *She poured the cup with water? Five previous papers have found seemingly contradictory results concerning the role of statistical preemption (competition from acceptable alternatives such as She covered the wall with paint or She poured water into the cup) and entrenchment (a mechanism sensitive to all uses of the relevant verb). Here, we use more appropriate measures of preemption and entrenchment (attraction measures based on the chi-square statistic, as opposed to using only the frequency of occurrence in favoured constructions) as well as more appropriate statistical analyses and, in one case, a larger corpus to reanalyse the data from these studies. We find that for errors of verb argument structure overgeneralization (as in the examples above), preemption/entrenchment effects are almost always observed in single-predictor models, but are rarely dissociable, due to collinearity. Fortunately, this problem is much less acute for errors of reversative un- prefixation (e.g., *unsqueeze; *uncome), which could in principle be blocked by (a) non-reversative uses of the same verb root (e.g., squeeze, come; entrenchment), and/or (b) lexically-unrelated verbs with similar meanings to the relevant un- forms (e.g., release, go; preemption). Across a reanalysis of two previous studies of un- prefixation, and a new extended replication with adults, we find dissociable effects of both preemption and entrenchment. A meta-analytic synthesis revealed that, across the studies, both effects are reliable, though preemption appears to increase with age. We conclude that a successful account of the retreat from verb overgeneralization is likely to be one that yields preemption and entrenchment as effects that fall naturally out of the learner’s attempts to communicate meaning, rather than one that treats these effects as mechanisms in their own right, and discuss current accounts that potentially meet this criterion. Finally, we set out some methodological recommendations that can be profitably applied not only to corpus-based experimental studies, but studies of child language acquisition in general.

Type: Article
Title: Effects of both preemption and entrenchment in the retreat from verb overgeneralization errors: four reanalyses, an extended replication, and a meta-analytic synthesis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1525/collabra.133
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.133
Language: English
Additional information: © 2018 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: child language acquisition , verb argument structure , locative , dative , morphology , preemption , entrenchment , competition , semantics , discriminative learning , Rescorla-Wagner
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065943
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