This paper examines naturalistic samples of adult-to-child
speech to determine if variations in the input are consistent
with reported variations in the proportions of nouns and verbs
in children's early
vocabularies. It contrasts two PRO-DROP languages,
Italian and Mandarin, with English. Naturalistic speech samples
from six 2;0 English-,
six 1;11 Italian-, and ten 1;10 Mandarin-speaking children
and their caregivers were examined. Adult-to-child speech was
coded for the type
frequency, token frequency, utterance position, and morphological
variation of nouns and verbs as well as the types and placements of
syntactic subjects and the pragmatic focus of adult questions.
Children's spontaneous productions of nouns and verbs and
their responses to adult
questions were also examined. The results suggest a pattern
consistent with the children's spontaneous production data.
Namely, the speech of
English-speaking caregivers emphasized nouns over verbs,
whereas that of Mandarin-speaking caregivers emphasized verbs
over nouns. The data from the Italian-speaking caregivers were
more equivocal, though still noun-oriented, across these
various input measures.