Spooning and basketing: children's dealing with accidental gaps in the lexicon.

E. W. Bushnell, Michael P Maratsos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The abilities of 2-, 5-, and 7-year-old children to interpret, judge the acceptability of, and produce class extensions were assessed. Class extensions are linguistic constructions in which a word that normally functions as a member of one syntactic category is used as a member of another, as in the sentence He is pianoing Christmas songs. Subjects in each age group understood sentences containing class extensions to some extent. However, the 2-year-olds' performance was depressed relative to the near-maximal performance of the older subjects, because they were generally insensitive to word-order cues in the stimulus sentences. Only the 7-year-olds consistently judged sentences containing class extensions to be deviant; the 5-year-olds confused syntax and semantics in making their judgments. The 7-year-olds were also able to produce class-extension phrases "on demand" more frequently than the 5-year-olds. It is concluded that the increasing ability with age to deal appropriately with class extensions is primarily due to general advances in language acquisition rather than to any development unique to the class-extension word-formation process. It is noted that the pattern of results reported, as well as observations that children's use of class extensions in spontaneous speech declines with age, may both be accounted for if word-formation rules are assumed to be "nonproductive, general rules," with a generative component and a later-acquired inhibitory component.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-902
Number of pages10
JournalChild Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1984


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