Emma Nguyen

Congratulations to Language Science postdoctoral fellow Emma Nguyen and Professor Lisa Pearl for publishing a paper in the journal Language Acquisition. The paper is titled “The link between lexical semantic features and children’s comprehension of English verbal be-passives” and describes an investigation of how English-speaking children's performance on sentences in the passive voice is impacted by the meaning of the verbs used. The text of the abstract is below.

Children seem to be relatively delayed in their comprehension of the verbal be-passive in English, compared to their acquisition of other constructions of object-movement such as wh-questions and unaccusatives. Prior work has found that children’s performance on these passives can be affected by the verb’s lexical semantics. Through a meta-analysis of experimental studies assessing English-speaking children’s age of acquisition for the verbal be- passive, we identify a developmental trajectory composed of five classes, where each class has a distinct lexical semantic profile. A Truth-Value Judgment (TVJ) Task assessing English-speaking children’s comprehension of verbal be-passives supports this developmental trajectory. Together, the meta-analysis and TVJ study underscore the importance of lexical semantics for understanding the development of the English verbal be-passive.

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