Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Uncovering productive morphosyntax in French-learning toddlers: a multidimensional methodology perspective


The present study applies a multidimensional methodological approach to the study of the acquisition of morphosyntax. It focuses on evaluating the degree of productivity of an infrequent subject–verb agreement pattern in the early acquisition of French and considers the explanatory role played by factors such as input frequency, semantic transparency of the agreement markers, and perceptual factors in accounting for comprehension of agreement in number (singular vs. plural) in an experimental setting. Results on a pointing task involving pseudo-verbs demonstrate significant comprehension of both singular and plural agreement in children aged 2;6. The experimental results are shown not to reflect input frequency, input marker reliability on its own, or lexically driven knowledge. We conclude that toddlers have knowledge of subject–verb agreement at age 2;6 which is abstract and productive despite its paucity in the input.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Isabelle Barrière, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8423, USA. tel: 718 780 6335 (cell); e-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. Abbot-Smith , E. Lieven & M. Tomasello (2008). Graded representations in the acquisition of English and German transitive constructions. Cognitive Development 23(1), 4866.

D. Bassano & I. Mendes-Maillochon (1994). Early grammatical and prosodic marking of utterance modality in French: a longitudinal study. Journal of Child Language 21(3), 649–75.

H. Behrens (2009). Usage-based and emergentist approaches to language acquisition. Linguistics 47(2), 383411.

J. Berko (1958). The child's learning of English morphology. Word 14, 150–77.

S. Bernal , G. Dehaene-Lambertz , S. Millotte & A. Christophe (2010). Two-year-olds compute syntactic structure on-line. Developmental Science 13(1), 6976.

S. Bernal , J. Lidz , S. Millotte & A. Christophe (2007). Syntax constrains the acquisition of verb learning. Language Learning and Development 3, 325–41.

A. R. Bradlow , N. Kraus , T. G. Nicol , T. J. McGee , J. Cunningham , S. G. Zecker & T. D. Carrell (1999). Effects of lengthened formant transition duration on discrimination and neural representation of synthetic CV syllables by normal and learning-disabled children. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 106(4), 2086–96.

J. P. Chevrot , C. Dugua , M. Harnois-Delpiano , A. Siccardi & E. Spinelli (2013). Liaison acquisition: debates, critical issues, future research. Language Sciences 39, 8394.

V. A Johnson , J. G. de Villiers & H. N. Seymour (2005). Agreement without understanding? The case of third person singular /s/. First Language 25, 317330.

G. Legendre , I. Barrière , L. Goyet & T. Nazzi (2010a). Comprehension of infrequent subject–verb agreement forms: evidence from French-learning children. Child Development 81(6): 1859–75.

E. V. M. Lieven , J. M. Pine & G. Baldwin (1997). Lexically based learning and early grammatical development. Journal of Child Language 24(1), 187217.

A. Pierce (1992). Language acquisition and syntactic theory: a comparative analysis of French and English child grammars. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

M. Tomasello (2001). First steps towards a usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cognitive Linguistics 11(1/2), 6182.

M. Dittmar , K. Abbot-Smith , E. Lieven , & M. Tomasello (2008). Young German children's early syntactic competence: a preferential looking study. Developmental Science 11(4), 575582.

J. Durand & C. Lyche (2008). French liaison in the light of corpus data. Journal of French Language Studies 18, 3366.

N. Gonzalez-Gomez & T. Nazzi (2012). Acquisition of nonadjacent phonological dependencies in the native language in the first year of life. Infancy 17(5), 498524.

M. Soderstrom , K. S. White , E. Conwell , & J. L. Morgan (2007). Receptive grammatical knowledge of familiar content words and inflection in 16 month olds. Infancy 12, 129.

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: 3
Total number of PDF views: 39 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 144 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.