Frequency, Acceptability, and Selection: A case study of clause-embedding

8 Apr 2020  ·  Aaron Steven White, Kyle Rawlins ·

We investigate the relationship between the frequency with which verbs are found in particular subcategorization frames and the acceptability of those verbs in those frames, focusing in particular on subordinate clause-taking verbs, such as "think", "want", and "tell". We show that verbs' subcategorization frame frequency distributions are poor predictors of their acceptability in those frames---explaining, at best, less than 1/3 of the total information about acceptability across the lexicon---and, further, that common matrix factorization techniques used to model the acquisition of verbs' acceptability in subcategorization frames fare only marginally better. All data and code are available at

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