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Universal and dialect-specific pathways of acquisition: Caregivers, children, and t/d deletion

  • Jennifer Smith (a1), Mercedes Durham (a2) and Liane Fortune (a3)


T/d deletion is one of the most widely studied variables in sociolinguistic research, and findings demonstrate universal morphological and phonological constraints across a range of dialects. Research into the acquisition of this variable suggests that articulatory constraints are learned first, followed by grammatical, and finally stylistic and social constraints. Dialect-specific constraints are also found, implicating the caregiver in the process of acquisition. In this article, we contribute to this research on the acquisition of t/d through the examination of the speech of preschool children in interaction with their primary caregivers in a community in Scotland. Our results mirror previous results on how and when particular constraints are acquired, providing further evidence for universal order of acquisition of this form. We also demonstrate dialect-specific constraints on use that can be mapped directly to caregiver speech. This provides additional evidence on how variable forms are transmitted from parent to child in these early stages.



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