Frequency Effects in Language Development

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  • Until recently, frequency received little attention in child language research. In the nativist approach, it is generally assumed that language acquisition involves a universal set of innate categories that are not immediately affected by frequency. However, there is now increasing evidence that language development is crucially influenced by the child's experience with concrete words and utterances and that frequency of occurrence plays an important role in the acquisition of grammatical categories.

    Two general types of frequency are commonly distinguished to characterize the effects of frequency in language: (1) token frequency, that is, the repeated occurrence of a particular word or construction (in a given corpus or time frame); and (2) type frequency, that is, the number of distinct types that are subsumed under a particular category. ...

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