Events

According to a prominent theory (Gleitman 1990, Fisher et al 2010), children’s hypotheses about verb meanings are guided by Participant-to-Argument-Matching (PAM): the argument NPs in a sentence match the ‘participants’ implied by the construal of a scene one-to-one. We test PAM through a series of experiments examining nonlinguistic event construals. Exp.1 replicates Gordon’s (2003) finding that prelinguistic infants distinguish whether an entity is a participant or bystander in giving and hugging scenes. Exp.2 demonstrates an implicit measure of the same distinction with adults. Exp.3 shows by this measure that adults perceive instruments as event participants, even though they are typically not expressed by an argument NP with verbs naturally describing such scenes (e.g. jimmy). If Exp.3 predicts how infants will construe similar scenes - preliminary data of which will be presented (Exp.4), this poses a problem for PAM: the represented event structure does not always align one-to-one with the argument structure of its most natural linguistic description.