Semantic features of early verb vocabularies

Sabrina Horvath, Leslie Rescorla, Sudha Arunachalam

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Much research has asked why verbs are difficult to acquire, and how toddlers nevertheless acquire them. Still, we know little about what kinds of verb meanings are easy or difficult to acquire. We revisit Rescorla and colleagues’ data on vocabulary knowledge in toddlers acquiring English, Italian, Greek, Korean, and Portuguese measured using the Language Development Survey. We coded the survey’s verbs for several semantic features to determine which features predict appearance in toddlers’ vocabularies. For English, manner and result verbs were equally well known across samples, but verbs labeling durative events and events with fewer event participants were more likely to be known than those labeling punctual events and events involving more participants. Similar trends held in the other languages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTrends in Language Acquisition Research
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages26
StatePublished - 2018


  • Cross-linguistic
  • Language development survey
  • Lexical semantics
  • Verb learning
  • Verbs
  • Vocabulary composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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