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Can input explain children's me-for-I errors?*

  • MINNA KIRJAVAINEN (a1), ANNA THEAKSTON (a1) and ELENA LIEVEN (a2)

Abstract

English-speaking children make pronoun case errors producing utterances where accusative pronouns are used in nominative contexts (me do it). We investigate whether complex utterances in the input (Let me do it) might explain the origin of these errors. Longitudinal naturalistic data from seventeen English-speaking two- to four-year-olds was searched for 1psg accusative-for-nominative case errors and for all 1psg preverbal pronominal contexts. Their caregivers' data was also searched for 1psg preverbal pronominal contexts. The data show that the children's proportional use of me-for-I errors correlated with their caregivers' proportional use of me in 1psg preverbal contexts. Furthermore, the verbs that children produced in me-error utterances appeared in complex sentences containing me in the input more often than verbs that did not appear in me-for-I errors in the children's speech. These findings are discussed in the context of current explanations for children's case marking errors.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Minna Kirjavainen, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK. e-mail: minna.kirjavainen@manchester.ac.uk

Footnotes

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[*]

We would like to thank Brian and his family, and Fraser and his family, for their time and patience, the team of research assistants who collected and transcribed the data, and Jeannine Goh for supervising the dense database project. Thanks also to Julian Pine for helpful discussions about the data and to the editors and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This research was funded by a Max Planck PhD studentship to the first author.

Footnotes

References

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