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Speaking American: A History of English in the United States

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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: When answer-phone makes a difference in children's acquisition of English compounds
Author: Victoria A. Murphy
Institution: University of Oxford
Author: Elena Nicoladis
Institution: University of Alberta
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Over the course of acquiring deverbal compounds like truck driver, English-speaking children pass through a stage when they produce ungrammatical compounds like drive-truck. These errors have been attributed to canonical phrasal ordering (Clark, Hecht & Mulford, 1986). In this study, we compared British and Canadian children's compound production. Both dialects have the same phrasal ordering but some different lexical items (e.g. answer-phone exists only in British English). If influenced by these lexical differences, British children would produce more ungrammatical Verb–Object (VO) compounds in trying to produce the more complex deverbal (Object–Verb-er) than the Canadian children. 36 British children between the ages of 3;6 and 5;6 and 36 age-matched Canadian children were asked to produce novel compounds (like sun juggler). The British children produced more ungrammatical compounds and fewer grammatical compounds than the Canadian children. We argue that children's errors in deverbal compounds may be due in part to competing lexical structures.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 33, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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