On the acquisition of event culmination

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There is quite a high rate of acceptance of telic-perfective predicates as descriptions of non-culminating events in children learning Germanic and Romance languages. What causes children, much more so than adults, to accept non-culminating interpretations of telic-perfective sentences? In this review, I discuss learners’ difficulties in each of three grammatical dimensions that contribute to event culmination: the notion of ‘result’ as encoded in the lexical semantics of verbs, telicity of verb phrases, and perfectivity of tense-aspect morphology. I conclude that telicity and perfectivity do not cause the non-culmination acceptance patterns. Instead, the learnability challenge for event culmination lies in the acquisition of verb meanings. I sketch several new angles for further research, including the role of agentivity of the subject.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSemantics in Language Acquisition
EditorsKristen Syrett, Sudha Arunachalam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishers
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9789027263605
ISBN (Print)9789027201379
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameTrends in Language Acquisition Research
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company


  • verb meaning
  • telicity
  • aspect
  • perfectivity
  • event culmination
  • completion entailment
  • L1 acquisition
  • scalar semantics
  • pragmatic inferences

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