Fast mapping of verbs by children with specific language impairment

Julia A. Eyer, Laurence B. Leonard, Lisa M. Bedore, Karla K. McGregor, Bertha Anderson, Rebecca Viescas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Two studies examined preschoolers' ability to assign verb interpretations to nonsense words encountered in conjunction with novel actions. Experiment 1 examined the ability of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and younger, normally developing peers to glean a verb interpretation when the name of the figure performing the novel action was already known. The two groups of children performed in a similar, accurate fashion. Experiment 2 required preschoolers to rely exclusively on morphosyntactic information to determine whether the novel word represented an object or action. When provided with redundant morphosyntactic cues, children with SLI and language- and age-matched peers succeeded in identifying the novel words that referred to objects but not those that referred to actions. Only the age-matched normal peers were above chance levels when a noun interpretation depended on a single grammatical morpheme (e.g., 'We want the koob' versus 'We want to koob'). The findings suggest that preschoolers, whether or not they have language impairment, have difficulty using morphosyntactic information to bootstrap verbs. Furthermore, redundant but not single morphosyntactic cues facilitate the bootstrapping of nouns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-77
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Fast mapping
  • Specific language impairment
  • Verb learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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