Skip to main content Accessibility help

‘Can I put – I want a slippers to put on’: young children's development of request forms in a code-switching environment

  • Valerie Youssef (a1)

This paper concerns the development of semi-modal want/want to, and modals may, can and could in two Trinidadian children, whose Verb Phrase development was studied in naturalistic settings, between the ages of 2;3 and 4;1, and 2;4 and 4;9. The similarities and differences in development between the two are important for underlining a number of key factors in the acquisition process. Accepting the salience of requests/demands in early child language, the study draws attention to the child's propensity for using the means most readily available to him/her in the input, for expression of this function. Additionally, there is evidence of the child's ability to make stylistic discriminations at a very early age and of the propensity for making semantic distinctions among forms. The study indicates that work on the development of grammatical features is incomplete without consideration of sociolinguistic aspects of usage as integral to grammatical acquisition from the outset.

Corresponding author
Department of Language & Linguistics, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies.
Hide All
Andersen, E. (1977). Learning to speak with style: a study of the sociolinguistic skills of children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.
Bellugi, U. (1967). The acquisition of negation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Harvard University.
Bloom, L. M., Takeff, J. & Lahey, M. (1984). Learning ‘to’ in complement constructions. Journal of Child Language 11, 391406.
Bock, J. K. & Hornsby, M. E. (1977). How children ask and tell: a speech act analysis of children's requests. Stanford Papers and Reports on Child Language Development 13, 7282.
Carrington, L. D. (1976). Determining language education policy in Caribbean sociolinguistic complexes. In International Journal of the Sociology of Language 8, 2744.
Craig, D. (1971). Education and Creole English in the West Indies: some sociolinguistic factors. In Hymes, D. (ed.), Pidginisation and creolization of languages. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Craig, D. (1980). Education policy in Creole communities. In Valdam, A. & Highfield, A. (eds), Theoretical orientations in creole studies. New York: Academic Press.
Craig, D. (1984). Communication, creole and conceptualization. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 45, 2137.
Cross, T. (1978). Mother's speech and its association with rate of linguistic development in young children. In Snow, C. & Waterson, N. (eds), The development of communication. Chichester: Wiley.
Fasold, R. (1987). The sociolinguistics of society. Oxford: Blackwell.
Fillmore, C. J. (1977). Topics in lexical semantics. In Cole, R. W. (ed.), Current issues in linguistic theory. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Garvey, C. (1975). Requests and responses in children's speech. Journal of Child Language 2, 4164.
Gathercole, V. (1986). The acquisition of the present perfect: explaining differences in the speech of Scottish and American children. Journal of Child Language 13, 537–60.
Giles, H. & Smith, P. (1979). Accommodation theory: optional levels of convergence. In Giles, H. & Clair, R. St. (eds), Language and social psychology. Oxford: Blackwell.
Gleason, J. B. & Perlmann, R. Y. (1985). Acquiring social variation in speech. In Giles, H. & Clair, R. St. (eds), Recent advances in language, communication, and social psychology. London: Erlbaum.
Kuczaj, S. & Maratsos, M. (1975). On the acquisition of front, back and side. Child Development 46, 2O210.
Ochs, E. (1985). Variation and error: a sociolinguistic approach to language acquisition in Samoa. In Slobin, D. D. (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition. Vol. 1. The data. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Rickford, J. (1987). The haves and have nots: sociolinguistic surveys and the assessment of speaker competence. Language in Society 16, 149–78.
Shepherd, S. (1981). ‘Modals in Antiguan creole, child language acquisition, and history.’ Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.
Shepherd, S. (1983). Creoles and language acquisition: parallels in the expression of modality. In Carrington, L. D. (ed.), Studies in Caribbean language. Trinidad: Society for Caribbean Linguistics.
Slobin, D. (1973). Cognitive prerequisites for the development of grammar. In Studies of child language development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Slobin, D. (1985). Cross-linguistic evidence for the language-making capacity. In Slobin, D. I. (ed.), The cross-linguistic study of language acquisition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Stephany, U. (1986). Modality. In Fletcher, P. & Garman, M. (eds), Language acquisition: studies in first language development. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Wells, G. (1985). Language development in the pre-school years. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Winford, D. (1985). The concept of ‘diglossia’ in Caribbean Creole situations. Language in Society 14, 345–56.
Youssef, V. C. (1988). The language bioprogram hypothesis revisited. Journal of Child Language 15, 451–8.
Youssef, V. C. (1990 a). The development of linguistic skills in some Trinidadian children: an integrative approach to Verb Phrase development. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
Youssef, V. C. (1990 b). The development of perfect aspect: verbal, adverbial and contextual specification. Journal of Child Language 17, 295312.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed