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Is the development of the English progressive in L1 children a U-shaped curve?


  • Carl-Staffan Svenbro

Summary, in English

This essay is concerned with whether the progressive aspect is overgeneralized by children, using it with stative verbs. The study targets the age interval 1 to 10 years and adults. The matter was investigated in several child corpora and adult corpora. The interval 1 to 5 years was covered by the Brown (1973b) corpus with Eve, Adam and Sarah. Data for the interval 6 to 10 years were obtained from the Carterette and Jones corpus (1974b). Initially, a comprehensive list of verbs used in progressive constructions from the Brown (1973b) corpus was extracted using a pattern-matching algorithm. It recognized textual patterns typical of this aspect. Development and testing of such an algorithm is an additional objective of this study. The corpus tagging indicators of the child corpora were used to validate the algorithm. After selection of 5 stative verbs from the Brown (1973b) corpus, the two most frequent verbs, have and hurt, were examined more thoroughly. Analysis of the child data indicates that the verb have is not overgeneralized according to the criteria. On the basis of adjusted frequencies, the study finds tentative support for overgeneralization of the verb hurt in the progressive. No indications of other stative verbs being overgeneralized are identified.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • progressive aspect
  • overgeneralization
  • U-Shaped development
  • L1
  • children
  • stative verbs
  • child language development
  • Eve
  • Adam
  • Sarah
  • Brown corpus
  • Carterette and Jones corpus
  • pattern-matching algorithm
  • adjusted frequencies


  • Eva Klingvall