Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Laura Lakusta

Committee Member

Jennifer Yang

Committee Member

Paul Muentener


Research has found that children begin to differentiate in the terms they use to encode support. In English, BE on, the Basic Locative Construction (Levinson & Wilkins, 2006; “put on” in dynamic events) tends to encode support-from-below (e.g., cup on table), whereas lexical support verbs (e.g., hang, stick, tape, glue, etc.) tend to encode mechanical support. We see this differentiation in semantic space by six years of age (Johannes et al., 2016). Although this differentiation occurs, we can still use BE on to encode all types of support, just as we can use a variety of lexical verbs (e.g., the picture is on/put on the wall, the picture is hanging on the wall, the picture is stuck to the wall, the picture is taped to the wall), In this study we ask several questions: 1) do four-year-olds use more lexical verbs to describe dynamic events compared to previous studies (Johannes et al., 2016; Landau et al., 2017) that use static stimuli, 2) does visibility of the support mechanism play a role in the lexical support verbs used and 3) do participants show a bias to encode specific aspects of the spatial configuration over another by using one class of verbs more, specifically do they encode the resulting spatial configuration (use Verbs of Putting in a Spatial configuration more; “hang”) or the manner of attachment (use Verbs of Attaching more; “stick, tape, clip”). The results suggest that four-year-olds use lexical verbs more than previous studies, suggesting that dynamic events elicit more lexical verbs compared to static stimuli. Further, we found that visibility does impact participants’ verbs use, and that participants have a linguistic bias when describing mechanical support events. Our results have implications for children’s knowledge of support mechanisms and how children reason about physical support events.

File Format