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When answer-phone makes a difference in children's acquisition of English compounds

  • VICTORIA A. MURPHY (a1) and ELENA NICOLADIS (a2)
Abstract

Over the course of acquiring deverbal compounds like truck driver, English-speaking children pass through a stage when they produce ungrammatical compounds like drive-truck. These errors have been attributed to canonical phrasal ordering (Clark, Hecht & Mulford, 1986). In this study, we compared British and Canadian children's compound production. Both dialects have the same phrasal ordering but some different lexical items (e.g. answer-phone exists only in British English). If influenced by these lexical differences, British children would produce more ungrammatical Verb–Object (VO) compounds in trying to produce the more complex deverbal (Object–Verb-er) than the Canadian children. 36 British children between the ages of 3;6 and 5;6 and 36 age-matched Canadian children were asked to produce novel compounds (like sun juggler). The British children produced more ungrammatical compounds and fewer grammatical compounds than the Canadian children. We argue that children's errors in deverbal compounds may be due in part to competing lexical structures.

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Corresponding author
Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford, OX2 6PY, UK. tel: +44 (0)1865 274042; fax: +44 (0)1865 274027; e-mail: victoria.murphy@edstud.ox.ac.uk
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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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