“Frequent Frames” in German Child-Directed Speech: A Limited Cue to Grammatical Categories


should be sent to Barbara Stumper, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. E-mail: barbara_stumper@eva.mpg.de


Mintz (2003) found that in English child-directed speech, frequently occurring frames formed by linking the preceding (A) and succeeding (B) word (A_x_B) could accurately predict the syntactic category of the intervening word (x). This has been successfully extended to French (Chemla, Mintz, Bernal, & Christophe, 2009). In this paper, we show that, as for Dutch (Erkelens, 2009), frequent frames in German do not enable such accurate lexical categorization. This can be explained by the characteristics of German including a less restricted word order compared to English or French and the frequent use of some forms as both determiner and pronoun in colloquial German. Finally, we explore the relationship between the accuracy of frames and their potential utility and find that even some of those frames showing high token-based accuracy are of limited value because they are in fact set phrases with little or no variability in the slot position.