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Large constituent families help children parse compounds

  • ANDREA KROTT (a1) and ELENA NICOLADIS (a2)

Abstract

The family size of the constituents of compound words, or the number of compounds sharing the constituents, has been shown to affect adults' access to compound words in the mental lexicon. The present study was designed to see if family size would affect children's segmentation of compounds. Twenty-five English-speaking children between 3;7 and 5;9 were asked to explain the meaning of existing compounds with constituents of varying family size to an alien puppet. The results showed that children were more likely to mention the modifier of compounds if they came from large constituent families than if they came from small constituent families. Other variables were also shown to have some, but smaller effects on children's parsing, including the frequency of the constituent words and the compounds, whether the compounds were already known, and age. These results suggest that children's segmentation of compounds might be facilitated by analogy with other compounds already in their vocabularies.

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Corresponding author

Andrea Krott, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK. tel: +33 (0)121 414 4903; fax: +33 (0)121 4144897; e-mail: a.krott@bham.ac.uk

Footnotes

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This research was supported by a NSERC Research Grant to the second author. An earlier version has been presented at the 25th Annual Meeting of the German Linguistics Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft) in Munich, February 26–28, 2003. We thank Trinity Wilson for collecting and coding the data for this study and Christina Gagné for helpful feedback.

Footnotes

Large constituent families help children parse compounds

  • ANDREA KROTT (a1) and ELENA NICOLADIS (a2)

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