To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Verb-marking errors are a characteristic feature of the speech of typically-developing (TD) children and are particularly prevalent in the speech of children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). However, both the pattern of verb-marking error in TD children and the pattern of verb-marking deficit in DLD vary across languages and interact with the semantic and syntactic properties of the language being learned. In this paper, we review work using a computational model called MOSAIC. We show how this work allows us to understand several features of the cross-linguistic data that are otherwise difficult to explain. We also show how discrepancies between the developmental data and the quantitative predictions generated by MOSAIC can be used to identify weaknesses in our current understanding and lead to further theory development; and how the resulting model (MOSAIC+) helps us understand differences in the cross-linguistic patterning of verb-marking errors in TD children and children with DLD.
By the end of their first year, infants can interpret many different types of complex dynamic visual events, such as caused-motion, chasing, and goal-directed action. Infants of this age are also in the early stages of vocabulary development, producing their first words at around 12 months. The present work examined whether there are meaningful individual differences in infants’ ability to represent dynamic causal events in visual scenes, and whether these differences influence vocabulary development. As part of the longitudinal Language 0–5 Project, 78 10-month-old infants were tested on their ability to interpret three dynamic motion events, involving (a) caused-motion, (b) chasing behaviour, and (c) goal-directed movement. Planned analyses found that infants showed evidence of understanding the first two event types, but not the third. Looking behaviour in each task was not meaningfully related to vocabulary development, nor were there any correlations between the tasks. The results of additional exploratory analyses and simulations suggested that the infants’ understanding of each event may not be predictive of their vocabulary development, and that looking times in these tasks may not be reliably capturing any meaningful individual differences in their knowledge. This raises questions about how to convert experimental group designs to individual differences measures, and how to interpret infant looking time behaviour.
This study tested the claim of input-based accounts of language acquisition that children's inflectional errors reflect competition between different forms of the same verb in memory. In order to distinguish this claim from the claim that inflectional errors reflect the use of a morphosyntactic default, we focused on the Japanese verb system, which shows substantial by-verb variation in the frequency distribution of past and nonpast forms. 22 children aged 3;2–5;8 (Study 1) and 26 children aged 2;7–4;11 (Study 2) completed elicited production studies designed to elicit past and nonpast forms of 20 verbs (past-biased and nonpast-biased). Children made errors in both directions, using past forms in nonpast contexts, and vice versa, with the likelihood of each determined by the frequency bias of the two forms in the input language, even after controlling for telicity. This bi-directional pattern provides particularly direct evidence for the role of frequency-sensitive competition between stored forms.
Four- and five-year-old children took part in an elicited familiar and novel Lithuanian noun production task to test predictions of input-based accounts of the acquisition of inflectional morphology. Two major findings emerged. First, as predicted by input-based accounts, correct production rates were correlated with the input frequency of the target form, and with the phonological neighbourhood density of the noun. Second, the error patterns were not compatible with the systematic substitution of target forms by either (a) the most frequent form of that noun or (b) a single morphosyntactic default form, as might be predicted by naive versions of a constructivist and generativist account, respectively. Rather, most errors reflected near-miss substitutions of singular for plural, masculine for feminine, or nominative/accusative for a less frequent case. Together, these findings provide support for an input-based approach to morphological acquisition, but are not adequately explained by any single account in its current form.
The present study investigated children's early use of verb inflection in Japanese by comparing a generativist account, which predicts that the past tense will have a special default-like status for the child during the early stages, with a constructivist input-driven account, which assumes that children's acquisition and use of inflectional forms reflects verb-specific distributional patterns in their input. Analysis of naturalistic data from four Japanese children aged 1;5 to 2;10 showed that there was substantial by-verb variation in the use of inflectional forms from the earliest stages of verb use, and no general preference for past tense forms. Correlational and partial correlational analyses showed that it was possible to predict the proportional frequency with which the child produced verbs in past tense versus other inflectional forms on the basis of differences in the proportional frequency with which the verb occurred in past tense form in the child's input, even after controlling for differences in the rate at which verbs occurred in past tense form in input averaged across the caregivers of the other children in the sample. When taken together, these results count against the idea that the past tense has a special default-like status in early child Japanese, and in favour of a constructivist input-driven account of children's early use of verb inflection.
Young English-speaking children often produce utterances with missing 3sg -s (e.g., *He play). Since the mid 1990s, such errors have tended to be treated as Optional Infinitive (OI) errors, in which the verb is a non-finite form (e.g., Wexler, 1998; Legate & Yang, 2007). The present article reports the results of a cross-sectional elicited-production study with 22 children (aged 3;1–4;1), which investigated the possibility that at least some apparent OI errors reflect a process of defaulting to the form with the highest frequency in the input. Across 48 verbs, a significant negative correlation was observed between the proportion of ‘bare’ vs. 3sg -s forms in a representative input corpus and the rate of 3sg -s production. This finding suggests that, in addition to other learning mechanisms that yield such errors cross-linguistically, at least some of the OI errors produced by English-speaking children reflect a process of defaulting to a high-frequency/phonologically simple form.
The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the better recall of emotional words applies to both native and later-learned languages. In a mixed design, 41 native Finnish speakers, who were substantially less proficient in their later-learned languages, which were English (second language) and Swedish (third language), were shown negative/taboo, positive, and neutral words in the three languages. Their memory for the words was assessed in an unexpected free recall test preceded by a depth of processing task (deep or shallow). The results revealed that an emotion-word advantage was visible for negatively valenced words (negative/taboo) in the native language, Finnish, and the second language, English. However, the nature of the processing task had no significant effect on recall. Additional self-report measures indicated that English was perceived as more emotional and more frequently used than Swedish. These results suggest that the amount and frequency of everyday exposure to a particular language are two critical factors in determining the degree of emotionality of that language for the speaker.
This study examines the relationship between cross-sectional measures of referential style taken at 1;1 and measures based on the first 50 words in 12 first-born children. Since no significant relationship is found it is argued that age-defined cross-sectional measures are inappropriate for the study of strategy differences in early language development because they confound such differences with variation due to differences in development level.
This study examines the relationship between maternal-report measures of referential vocabulary and observational measures of referential vocabulary and usage in eight first-born middle-class children at 50 and loo words. The results indicate that although maternal-report measures of vocabulary composition can be reasonably reliable, provided some attempt is made to restrict variation in the number of vocabulary items upon which they are based, such measures tend to exaggerate the relative importance of common nouns for the child in two ways; firstly, in the sense that they reflect differential maternal sensitivity to such word-types in comparison with other less-‘referential’ items; and, secondly, in the sense that they overestimate the extent to which such word-types actually occur in the child's spontaneous speech.
The existence of stylistic variation between children in the early stages of language acquisition has been most frequently studied using Nelson's 0973) referential—expressive distinction. While the use of this distinction has generated a great deal of interesting research, there are a number of major problems associated with it. The present study presents a simple scheme, based on formal categories, for coding stylistic variation in the early lexicon. When applied to the first 50 and 100 words of 12 children collected between 0; 11 and 2; 3, the major dimensions of difference are found to be the relative proportion of common nouns and the relative proportion of frozen phrases. Moreover, the proportion of frozen phrases is also found to be significantly positively related to children's early productivity, suggesting that, rather than being a ‘deadend’ in early language development, the acquisition of frozen phrases may provide an alternative route into multiword speech.
There has been a growing trend in recent years toward the attribution of adultlike syntactic categories to young, language-learning children. This has derived support from studies which claim to have found positive evidence for syntactic categories in the speech of young children (e.g., Valian, 1986). However, these claims contradict the findings of previous research which have suggested that the categories underlying children's early multiword speech are much more limited in scope (e.g., Braine, 1976). The present study represents an attempt to differentiate and test these models of early multiword speech: focusing on the syntactic category of determiner, we investigated the extent to which 11 children showed overlap in the contexts in which they used different determiner types in their early multiword corpora. The results demonstrated that, although children do use determiners with a semantically heterogeneous collection of different noun types, there is very little evidence that they know anything about the relationship between the different determiner types, and thus there is no real case for the attribution of a syntactic determiner category. Indeed, this pattern of determiner use seems perfectly consistent with a limited-scope formula account of children's early multiword speech, as proposed by Braine (1976). These findings suggest that the development of an adultlike determiner category may be a gradual process, one involving the progressive broadening of the range of lexically specific frames in which different determiners appear, and are broadly consistent with a number of recent constructivist models of children's early grammatical development.
Since the publication of Nelson's (1973) monograph, a number of studies have documented negative relationships between referential style and some form of maternal directiveness. However, the precise nature of these relationships is still far from clear. The present study represents an attempt to resolve this confusion by investigating the relationship between different measures of maternal directiveness and different measures of referential style in the same group of eight mother–infant dyads. A distinction is made, first, between attentional directiveness and behavioral directiveness, and, second, between referential vocabulary measures based on a fixed number of vocabulary items (i.e., 50 words) and measures taken at particular age points (in this case, 1;4). Correlational analysis of these different measures shows not only that attentional and behavioral directiveness are not significantly related, but also that they are differentially predictive of different measures of referential style. Attentional directiveness is significantly related to referential style at 1;4, but not to referential style at 50 words; behavioral directiveness is significantly related to referential style in the child's subsequent 50 words, but not to referential style at 1;4. These findings suggest that, although the attentional regulation hypothesis may be potentially useful in explaining differences in children's actual rate of vocabulary development, it may be less valuable as a means of explaining stylistic variation in early vocabulary composition. This conclusion underlines the need to distinguish relationships between mothers' interactional behavior and stylistic variation in their children's early language from more general effects of maternal behavior on children's overall rate of language development.
Since the publication of Nelson's (1973) monograph, several studies have reported significant correlations between variation in children's early vocabulary composition and differences in the functional characteristics of mothers' child-directed speech. However, it is still not clear how these relations are actually mediated. The present study attempts to investigate thís issue by differentiating and testing two alternative explanations of the relations found in previous research on data from a study of eight mother–infant dyads between 0;11 and 1;8. Despite replicating previous findings of a relation between maternal descriptiveness and the proportion of nouns and maternal directiveness and the proportion of verbs in children's early vocabularies, the results reveal no relation between differences in mothers' interactional behavior and differences in the functional characteristics of their children's spontaneous speech. On the other hand, specific relations were found between children's referential vocabularies and maternal descriptives that included nouns and between children's verb vocabularies and maternal directives that included verbs. These findings not only raise doubts about the validity of a functional similarity account of relations between maternal speech characteristics and variation in early vocabulary composition, but also suggest that they may be better understood in terms of the interaction between processing mechanisms that are common to all children and differences in the structure of the input to which different children are actually exposed.
Observational and checklist measures of vocabulary composition have both recently been used to look at the absolute proportion of nouns in children's early vocabularies. However, they have tended to generate rather different results. The present study is an attempt to investigate the relationship between such measures in a sample of 26 children between 1;1 and 2;1 at approximately 50 and 100 words. The results show that although observational and checklist measures are significantly correlated, there are also systematic quantitative differences between them which seem to reflect a combination of checklist, maternal-report and observational sampling biases. This suggests that, although both kinds of measure may represent good indices of differences in vocabulary size and composition across children and hence be useful as dependent variables in correlational research, neither may be ideal for estimating the absolute proportion of nouns in children's vocabularies. The implication is that questions which rely on information about the absolute proportion of particular kinds of words in children's vocabularies can only be properly addressed by detailed longitudinal studies in which an attempt is made to collect more comprehensive vocabulary records for individual children.
There has been a growing trend in recent years towards the attribution of adult-like syntactic categories to young language-learning children. This is based, at least in part, on studies which claim to have found positive evidence for syntactic phrase structure categories in young children's speech. However, these claims contradict the findings of previous research which suggest that the categories underlying children's early multi-word speech are much more limited in scope. The present study represents an attempt to reconcile the findings of these different lines of research by focusing specifically on Valian's (1986) criteria for attributing the syntactic category of determiner to young children. The aim is, firstly, to replicate Valian's results regarding her determiner criteria on a new sample of seven children between the ages of 1;20 and 2;6; secondly, to investigate the extent to which children show overlap in the contexts in which they use different determiner types; and, thirdly, to compare this with a controlled measure of the overlap shown by competent adult speakers. The results suggest that Valian's criteria for attributing a syntactic determiner category are too generous and could be passed by children with a relatively small amount of limited scope knowledge. They also provide at least some evidence that a limited scope formula account of children's early determiner use may fit the data better than an adult-like syntactic account.
The Agreement/Tense Omission Model (ATOM) predicts that English-speaking children will show similar patterns of provision across different tense-marking morphemes (Rice, Wexler & Hershberger, 1998). The aim of the present study was to test this prediction by examining provision rates for third person singular present tense and first and third person singular forms of copula BE and auxiliary BE in longitudinal data from eleven English-speaking children between the ages of 1 ; 10 and 3 ; 0. The results show, first, that there were systematic differences in the provision rates of the different morphemes; second, that there were systematic differences in the rate at which all of the three morphemes were provided with pronominal and lexical subjects; and, third, that there were systematic differences in the rate at which copula BE and auxiliary BE were provided with the third person singular pronominal subjects It and He and the first person singular subject pronoun I. These results replicate those of Wilson (2003), while controlling for some possible objections to Wilson's analysis. They thus provide further evidence against the generativist view that children's rates of provision of different tense-marking morphemes are determined by a single underlying factor, and are consistent with the constructivist view that children's rates of provision reflect the gradual accumulation of knowledge about tense marking, with much of children's early knowledge being embedded in lexically specific constructions.
P. Bloom's (1990) data on subject omission are often taken as strong support for the view that child language can be explained in terms of full competence coupled with processing limitations in production. This paper examines whether processing limitations in learning may provide a more parsimonious explanation of the data without the need to assume full competence. We extended P. Bloom’s study by using a larger sample (12 children) and measuring subject omission phenomena in three developmental phases. The results revealed a Verb Phrase-length effect consistent with that reported by P. Bloom. However, contrary to the predictions of the processing limitations account, the proportion of overt subjects that were pronominal increased with developmental phase. The data were simulated with MOSAIC, a computational model that learns to produce progressively longer utterances as a function of training. MOSAIC was able to capture all of the effects reported by P. Bloom through a resource-limited distributional analysis of child-directed speech. Since MOSAIC does not have any built-in linguistic knowledge, these results show that the phenomena identified by P. Bloom do not constitute evidence for underlying competence on the part of the child. They also underline the need to develop more empirically grounded models of the way that processing limitations in learning might influence the language acquisition process.
In the current debate about the abstractness of children's early grammatical knowledge, Tomasello & Abbott-Smith (2002) have suggested that children might first develop ‘weak’ or ‘partial’ representations of abstract syntactic structures. This paper attempts to characterize these structures by comparing the development of constructions around verbs in Tomasello's (1992) case study of Travis, with those of 10 children (Stage I–II) in a year-length, longitudinal study. The results show some evidence that children's early knowledge of argument structure is verb-specific, but also some evidence that children can generalize knowledge about argument structure across verbs. One way to explain these findings is to argue that children are learning limited scope formulae around high frequency subjects and objects, which serve as building blocks for more abstract structures such as S+V and V+O. The implication is that children may have some verb-general knowledge of the transitive construction as early as Stage I, but that this knowledge is still far from being fully abstract knowledge.
The present study used an elicited imitation paradigm to test the prediction of Schutze & Wexler's (1996) AGREEMENT/TENSE OMISSION MODEL (ATOM) that the rate of non-nominative subjects with agreement-marked verb forms will be sufficiently low that such errors can reasonably be disregarded as noise in the data. A screening procedure identified five children who produced non-nominative subject errors (all her for she) who were then asked to repeat 24 sentences with 3sg feminine pronoun subjects (she) and agreeing main verbs or auxiliaries. All five children produced at least one non-nominative subject (her) with an agreement-marked verb form, and for none of these five children was the non-NOM+AGR rate significantly different to the rate that would be expected by chance, given the independent frequencies of non-nominative subjects and agreement-marked verb forms in their data. The three children for whom this expected (by chance) error rate was significantly greater than 10% (representing an acceptable level of noise in the data) produced non-NOM+AGR errors at a rate significantly greater than 10%, counter to the prediction of the ATOM. These results replicate and extend the naturalistic-data findings of Pine et al. using a different method. They also provide support for the use of elicited imitation as a methodology for assessing children's early grammatical knowledge.
In our recent paper, ‘Semantic generality, input frequency and the acquisition of syntax’ (Journal of Child Language31, 61–99), we presented data from two-year-old children to examine the question of whether the semantic generality of verbs contributed to their ease and stage of acquisition over and above the effects of their typically high frequency in the language to which children are exposed. We adopted two different categorization schemes to determine whether individual verbs should be considered to be semantically general, or ‘light’, or whether they encoded more specific semantics. These categorization schemes were based on previous work in the literature on the role of semantically general verbs in early verb acquisition, and were designed, in the first case, to be a conservative estimate of semantic generality, including only verbs designated as semantically general by a number of other researchers (e.g. Clark, 1978; Pinker, 1989; Goldberg, 1998), and, in the second case, to be a more inclusive estimate of semantic generality based on Ninio's (1999a,b) suggestion that grammaticalizing verbs encode the semantics associated with semantically general verbs. Under this categorization scheme, a much larger number of verbs were included as semantically general verbs.