Publication details [#744]

Boyd, Jeremy, Erin Gottschalk and Adele Goldberd. 2009. Linking rule acquisition in novel phrasal constructions. Language learning 59 (suppl. 1) : 64–89. 26 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


This article reports the results of an empirical work aimed at extablishing whether humans are able to learn linking rules, i.e. how the grammar of a natural language encode and decode semantic relationships in the sentence, from input alone. The perspective taken by the authors is the constructionist one that propose that mapping generalizations can be learned from the input. Adult partecipants were provided with 3 minutes exposure to a novel syntactic construction and then tested to see what was learned. Experiment 1 established that participants are able to accurately deploy newly acquired linking rules in a forced-choice comprehension task, and that constructional knowledge largely persists over a 1-week period. In Experiment 2, participants were exposed to the linking rules immanent in one of two novel constructions and were asked to describe novel events using their exposure construction. The data indicate that participants were successful in using their exposure construction’s linking rules in production, and that performance was equally good regardless of the specifics of the target linking pattern. These results indicate that linking rules can be learned relatively easily by adults, which, in turn, suggests that children may also be capable of learning them directly from the input.