Friday, February 03, 2006
Word-final consonant clusters, the perfective aspect, and other child linguistic feats
Asymmetries in the acquisition of word-initial and word-final consonant clusters
CECILIA KIRK a1c1 and KATHERINE DEMUTH a1
Previous work on the acquisition of consonant clusters points to a tendency for word-final clusters to be acquired before word-initial clusters (Templin, 1957; Lleó & Prinz, 1996; Levelt, Schiller & Levelt, 2000). This paper evaluates possible structural, morphological, frequency-based, and articulatory explanations for this asymmetry using a picture identification task with 12 English-speaking two-year-olds. The results show that word-final stop+/s/ clusters and nasal+/z/ clusters were produced much more accurately than word-initial /s/+stop clusters and /s/+nasal clusters. Neither structural nor frequency factors are able to account for these findings. Further analysis of longitudinal spontaneous production data from 2 children aged 1;1–2;6 provides little support for the role of morphology in explaining these results. We argue that an articulatory account best explains the asymmetries in the production of word-initial and word-final clusters.
A crosslinguistic study of the relationship between grammar and lexical development
ANTONELLA DEVESCOVI a1c1, MARIA CRISTINA CASELLI a2, DANIELA MARCHIONE a3, PATRIZIO PASQUALETTI a4, JUDY REILLY a5 and ELIZABETH BATES a6
The relationship between grammatical and lexical development was compared in 233 English and 233 Italian children aged between 1;6 and 2;6, matched for age, gender, and vocabulary size on the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (CDI). Four different measures of Mean Length of Utterance were applied to the three longest utterances reported by parents, and to corrected/expanded versions representing the ‘target’ for each utterance. Italians had longer MLUs on most measures, but the ratio of actual to target MLUs did not differ between languages. Age and vocabulary both contributed significant variance to MLU, but the contribution of vocabulary was much larger, suggesting that vocabulary size may provide a better basis for crosslinguistic comparisons of grammatical development. The relationship between MLU and vocabulary size was non-linear in English but linear in Italian, suggesting that grammar ‘gets off the ground’ earlier in a richly inflected language. A possible mechanism to account for this difference is discussed.
Splitting the notion of ‘agent’: case-marking in early child Hindi
BHUVANA NARASIMHAN a1c1
Two construals of agency are evaluated as possible innate biases guiding case-marking in children. A BROAD construal treats agentive arguments of multi-participant and single-participant events as being similar. A NARROWER construal is restricted to agents of multi-participant events. In Hindi, ergative case-marking is associated with agentive participants of multi-participant, perfective actions. Children relying on a broad or narrow construal of agent are predicted to overextend ergative case-marking to agentive participants of transitive imperfective actions and/or intransitive actions. Longitudinal data from three children acquiring Hindi (1;7 to 3;9) reveal no overextension errors, suggesting early sensitivity to distributional patterns in the input.
Beginning and end in the acquisition of the perfective aspect in Russian
SABINE STOLL a1c1
The goal of this research is to determine the relevant factors that aid in the acquisition of the perfective aspect in Russian. Results confirm the findings of previous research, which say that aspect is not learned as a uniform category, but rather interrelates with the acquisition of Aktionsarten. This study focuses on the factors responsible for the difference in the rate of the acquisition of two complementary Aktionsarten in the perfective aspect: telic verbs (verbs including a result/goal of the denoted event) and ingressive verbs (verbs including the beginning of the event).
Since the usage of Aktionsarten strongly depends on the surrounding discourse, two experiments that varied in their discourse complexity were conducted. One study looked at the production of isolated utterances (thirty-nine children aged 3;0 to 6;11) and the other study focused on complex texts (fifty-two children aged 3;0 to 6;11). It was found that while telics are used independently of discourse context, ingressives depend strongly on contextual information.
These results suggest that discourse complexity and narrative competence define the acquisitional process for ingressives, yet are irrelevant in the acquisition of telics.