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Query Details

Query Subject:   Lang Acq: Comprehension versus Production
Author:   Zahra Rastegar Haghighi Shirazi
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s):  Persian, Iranian

Query:   Dear LINGUIST subscribers,

I have conducted research on the asymmetry between comprehension
and production of verb inflection in children aged 4 to 6 years old in
Persian. The children took part in two different tasks: production and

In the first phase of the experiment on production, each child was
presented with 8 pictures which elicited verb inflections. One week
later, the same children were asked to listen to an orally presented
utterance describing a picture and point to the relevant picture. For
each sentence, a pair of similar simple colored drawings was presented
which differed only in terms of the number of the agents depicted. It is
worth noting that 2 different sets of pictures were employed in
production and comprehension tasks.

The following are some examples of the sentences in the test:

Non pro-drop:
1. dokhtær be ayne negah mikone
The girl at the mirror looks PRESENT-3SG
'The girl looks at the mirror.'

2. una be gola ab midæn
They the flowers water. PRESENT-3PL
'They water the flowers.'

3. hendoone mikhore
Water melon eats. PRESENT-3SG
'He eats watermelon

Both prodrop and non prodrop singular and plural sentences were
used. I found an interesting result. There was an asymmetry between
comprehension and production of inflection in children. In other
words, they could produce it but had problems with comprehension.

I think that the complex morphological inflections in Persian including
-ha, the allomorphs like -an,-gan, -yan, -van, -at, -jat, and -yat,
together with the Arabic origin inflections (-in, -at, a-) all have created
a quite complex situation for the child to deal with and they, therefore,
contribute to the difficulty in the interpretation of verb inflections.
However, in production children just use an inflection (-a) as an
umbrella term to cover all these inflections which is quite acceptable in
informal language.

But I need more persuasive reasons concerning this asymmetry
because many other researchers including Johnson, de Villiers, and
Seymour (2005) too conducted similar studies and found similar results
concerning the asymmetry between comprehension and production.

Johnson, V. E., J. De Villiers, H. N. Seymour. (2005). Agreement
without understanding? The case of third person singular /s/. First
Language, 25 (3): 317-330

I want to know whether there is a global justification for this asymmetry
or it is related to the characteristics of Persian Language. Why can
children produce verb inflection in Persian, but they are not successful
in comprehension? I really need useful suggestions. How can I justify
my results? Perhaps a very experienced linguist (Persian or
non Persian) can help me solve the puzzle of why Persian children
produce verb inflections but they have difficulty in comprehension?

Respectfully yours,
LL Issue: 22.2674
Date posted: 27-Jun-2011


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