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Grammatical Categories

  • By: Michelle C. St. Clair, Padraic Monaghan & Morten H. Christiansen
  • In: Encyclopedia of Language Development
  • Edited by: Patricia J. Brooks & Vera Kempe
  • Subject:Language Development, Language & Communication

Grammatical categories, also referred to as word classes, or parts of speech, are groups of words that have a similar syntactic role in sentences. Thus, words belonging to the same category can be interchanged within a sentence without the sentence becoming ungrammatical. Over the last 60 years in the psychology of language, one of the critical questions has been how grammatical structure of language is acquired. At one extreme, nativists propose that the grammatical categories are pre-specified, and the child acquires grammatical categories by mapping particular words onto these categories. A weaker nativist position is that categories are not specified, but semantic features corresponding to grammatical categories are innately determined. Thus, from the nativist perspective, learning entails matching sets of words to the innate semantic ...

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