Extending new verbs is important in becoming a productive speaker of a language. Prior results show children have difficulty extending verbs when they have seen events with varied agents. This study further examines the impact of variability on verb learning and asks whether variability interacts with event complexity or differs by language. Children (aged 2 1⁄2 to 3 years) in the United States, China, Korea, and Singapore learned verbs linked to simple and complex events. Sets of events included one or three agents, and children were asked to extend the verb at test. Children learning verbs linked to simple movements performed similarly across conditions. However, children learning verbs linked to events with multiple objects were less successful if those events were enacted by multiple agents. A follow-up study rules out an influence of event order. Overall, similar patterns of results emerged across languages, suggesting common cognitive processes support children’s verb learning.
Childers, J. B., Paik, J. H., Flores, M., Lai, G., & Dolan, M. (2017). Does variability across events affect verb learning in English, Mandarin, and Korean? Cognitive Science, 41, 808-830. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12398