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Early comprehension of the Spanish plural*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2014

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Psicología
Indiana University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Indiana University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Psicología
Address for correspondence: Natalia Arias-Trejo, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Facultad de Psicología, Av. Universidad 3004, Col. Copilco Universidad, Coyoacán, 04510, Mexico, D.F. tel: +52 55 56222287; e-mail:


Understanding how linguistic cues map to the environment is crucial for early language comprehension and may provide a way for bootstrapping and learning words. Research has suggested that learning how plural syntax maps to the perceptual environment may show a trajectory in which children first learn surrounding cues (verbs, modifiers) before a full mastery of the noun morpheme alone. The Spanish plural system of simple codas, dominated by one allomorph -s, and with redundant agreement markers, may facilitate early understanding of how plural linguistic cues map to novel referents. Two-year-old Mexican children correctly identified multiple novel object referents when multiple verbal cues in a phrase indicated plurality as well as in instances when the noun morphology in novel nouns was the only indicator of plurality. These results demonstrate Spanish-speaking children's ability to use plural noun inflectional morphology to infer novel word referents which may have implications for their word learning.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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The research described in this paper was supported by a CONACyT-167900 and PAPIIT- IG300313-2 research grants awarded to Natalia Arias-Trejo and by CONACyT-101752 and PAPIIT-IN306010-3 research grants to Elda Alicia Alva Canto. We thank the parents and toddlers who participated in the experiment. We are also indebted to Verónica I. Pérez Paz for her assistance in data collection.



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