Breaking into the Hebrew verb system: A learning problem

Orit Ashkenazi, Dorit Ravid, Steven Gillis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Verb learning is an important part of linguistic acquisition. The present study examines the early phases of verb acquisition in Hebrew, a language with complex derivational and inflectional verb morphology, analyzing verbs in dense recordings of CDS and CS of two Hebrew-speaking parent-child dyads aged 1;8-2;2. The goal was to pinpoint those cues that help toddlers identify the root-and-pattern make-up of Hebrew verbs despite the prevalence of structural opacity and irregularity in the verbs they hear, due to a high token frequency of defective (irregular)-root verbs. The study provides a detailed account of the distribution of root types and temporal categories in Hebrew CDS and CS showing how verb specific morphological features in the form of inflectional affixes in the Modal Cluster of Infinitive Imperative and Future Tense in CDS act as distributional cues facilitating verb acquisition in CS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalFirst Language
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Child directed speech
  • Hebrew
  • early child language
  • inflectional morphology
  • tense and modality
  • verb acquisition


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