Learning the Plural from Variable Input

An Eye-tracking Study of Chilean Children’s Plural Comprehension

  • Cynthia Lukyanenko George Mason University
  • Karen Miller Pennsylvania State University, USA
Keywords: first language acquisition; developmental sociolinguistics; variable input; Spanish; plural morphology

Abstract

Natural languages frequently display both consistent and variable morphological patterns. Previous studies have indicated that variable morphological patterns are mastered more slowly than consistent ones. In particular, it has been argued that Chilean children, who are exposed to variable plural-marking, take longer to consistently associate the plural marker to a more-than-one interpretation than children who are exposed to non-variable plural-marking (e.g. children from Mexico City). Building on this previous work, the present study assesses Chilean children’s ability to associate the plural marker to a more-than-one interpretation in both an act-out task and an eye-tracking task, in order to compare performance across different contexts and between offline and real-time comprehension, and to enrich our understanding of the acquisition of variable morphology.

References

Anisfeld, M., & Tucker, G. R. (1967). English Pluralization Rules of Six-Year-Old Children. Child Development, 38(4), 1201–1217.
Arias-Trejo, N., Cantrell, L. M., Smith, L. B., & Alva Canto, E. A. (2014). Early comprehension of the Spanish plural. Journal of Child Language, 41(6), 1356–1372. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000913000615
Barner, D., Chow, K., & Yang, S. J. (2009). Finding one’s meaning: A test of the relation between quantifiers and integers in language development. Cognitive Psychology, 58(2), 195–219. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2008.07.001
Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68(3), 255–278. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001
Bentley, D. (2017). Copular and existential constructions. In A. Dufter & E. Stark (Eds.), Manual of Romance Morphosyntax and Syntax (pp. 332–366).
Berko, J. (1958). The child’s learning of English morphology. Word, 14, 150-177 ST-The child’s learning of English morp. https://doi.org/10.1080/00437956.1958.11659661
Bosque, I. (1996). Por qué determinados sustantivos no son sustantivos determinados. Repaso y balance. In I. Bosque (Ed.), El sustantivo sin determinación. Presencia y ausencia de determinante en la lengua española (pp. 13–119). Madrid: Visor-Libros.
Brandt-Kobele, O. C., & Höhle, B. (2010). What asymmetries within comprehension reveal about asymmetries between comprehension and production: The case of verb inflection in language acquisition. Lingua, 120(8), 1910–1925. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.02.008
Brown, E. L., & Torres Cacoullos, R. (2003). Spanish /s/: A different story from beginning (initial) to end (final). In A Romance Perspective on Language Knowledge and Use: Selected Papers from the 31st Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LRSL), Chicago, 19-22 April, 2001 (pp. 21–38). John Benjamins.
Brown, R. (1973). A First Language: The Early Stages. Harvard University Press.
Cazden, C. B. (1968). The acquisition of noun and verb inflections. Child Development, 39(2), 433–448. https://doi.org/10.2307/1126956
Cepeda, G. (1995). Retention and deletion of word-final /s/ in Valdivian Spanish (Chile). Hispanic Linguistics, 6/7, 329–353.
Chang, F., Dell, G. S., & Bock, K. (2006). Becoming syntactic. Psychological Review, 113(2), 234–272. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.113.2.234
Davies, B., Xu Rattanasone, N., & Demuth, K. (2017). Two-year-olds’ sensitivity to inflectional plural morphology: Allomorphic effects. Language Learning and Development, 13(1), 38–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/15475441.2016.1219257
de Villiers, J. G., & de Villiers, P. A. (1973). A cross-sectional study of the acquisition of grammatical morphemes in child speech. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2(3), 267–278. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01067106
de Villiers, J. G., & Johnson, V. E. (2007). The information in third-person /s/: acquisition across dialects of American English. Journal of Child Language, 34(1), 133–158. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000906007768
Deevy, P. L., Leonard, L. B., & Marchman, V. A. (2017). Sensitivity to Morphosyntactic Information in 3-Year-Old Children With Typical Language Development: A Feasibility Study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60(3), 668–674. https://doi.org/10.1044/2016_jslhr-l-15-0153
Dink, J. W., & Ferguson, B. (2015). eyetrackingR: An R library for Eye-tracking data analysis. Retrieved from http://www.eyetrackingr.com
Erker, D. G. (2010). A subsegmental approach to coda /s/ weakening in Dominican Spanish. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. https://doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2010.019
Fernald, A., Zangl, R., Portillo, A. L., & Marchman, V. A. (2008). Looking while listening: Using eye movements to monitor spoken language comprehension by infants and young children. In Developmental Psycholinguistics: On-line Methods in Children’s Language Processing (pp. 113–132). https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
File-Muriel, R. J., & Brown, E. K. (2011). The gradient nature of s-lenition in Caleño Spanish. Language Variation and Change. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394511000056
Gutiérrez-Rexach, J. (2001). The semantics of Spanish plural existential determiners and the dynamics of judgment types. Probus. https://doi.org/10.1515/prbs.13.1.113
Hannay, M. (1985). English Existentials in Functional Grammar. Foris Publications.
Hudson Kam, C. L. (2015). The impact of conditioning variables on the acquisition of variation in adult and child learners. Language. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2015.0051
Hudson Kam, C. L., & Newport, E. (2005). Regularizing Unpredictable Variation: The Roles of Adult and Child Learners in Language Formation and Change. Language Learning and Development, 1(2), 151–195. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15473341lld0102_3
Hudson Kam, C. L., & Newport, E. L. (2009). Getting it right by getting it wrong: When learners change languages. Cognitive Psychology, 59(1), 30–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2009.01.001
Johnson, V. E., de Villiers, J. G., & Seymour, H. N. (2005). Agreement without understanding? The case of third person singular /s/. First Language, 25(3), 317–330. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723705053120
Jolly, H. R., & Plunkett, K. (2008). Inflectional bootstrapping in 2-year-olds. Language and Speech, 51(1–2), 45–59. https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309080510010401
Kauschke, C., Kurth, A., & Domahs, U. (2011). Acquisition of German Noun Plurals in Typically Developing Children and Children with Specific Language Impairment. Child Development Research. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/718925
Kouider, S., Halberda, J., Wood, J., & Carey, S. (2006). Acquisition of English number marking: The singular-plural distinction. Language Learning and Development, 2(1), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15473341lld0201_1
Laaha, S., Ravid, D., Korecky-Kröll, K., Laaha, G., & Dressler, W. U. (2006). Early noun plurals in German: Regularity, productivity or default? Journal of Child Language. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000906007379
Laalo, K. (2009). Acquisition of case and plural in Finnish. In U. Stephany & M. D. Voeikova (Eds.), Development of Nominal Inflection in First Language Acquisition: A Cross-linguistic Perspective (pp. 49–90). Mouton de Gruyter.
Legate, J. A., & Yang, C. D. (2007). Morphosyntactic Learning and the Development of Tense. Language Acquisition, 14(3), 315–344. https://doi.org/10.1080/10489220701471081
Lew-Williams, C., & Fernald, A. (2007). Young children learning spanish make rapid use of grammatical gender in spoken word recognition. Psychological Science, 18(3), 193–198. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01871.x
Lipski, J. M. (1984). On the Weakening of /s/ in Latin American Spanish. Zeitschrift Fur Dialecktologie Und Linguistik, 51, 31–43.
Marrero, V., & Aguirre, C. (2003). Plural acquisition and development in Spanish. (March 2015), 275–296.
Matuschek, H., Kliegl, R., Vasishth, S., Baayen, R. H., & Bates, D. (2017). Balancing Type I error and power in linear mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language, 94, 305–315. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2017.01.001
Melançon, A., & Shi, R. (2015). Representations of abstract grammatical feature agreement in young children. Journal of Child Language, 42(06), 1379–1393. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000914000804
Moore, M. E. (1979). Acquisition of the Plural Inflection in Black American Children. Michigan State University.
Papafragou, A., & Musolino, J. (2003). Scalar implicatures: Experiments at the semantics-pragmatics interface. Cognition, 86(3), 253–282. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(02)00179-8
Park, T. Z. (1978). Plurals in child speech. Journal of Child Language, 5(2), 237–250. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900007443
Pfeiler, B. (2009). The acquisition of numeral classifiers and optional plural marking in Yucatec Maya. In U. Stephany & M. D. Voeikofa (Eds.), Development of Nominal Inflection in First Language Acquisition: A Cross-linguistic Perspective (pp. 91–110). Mouton de Gruyter.
Pinker, S. (1984). Language Learnability and Language Development. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2
Pizzuto, E., & Caselli, M. C. (1992). The acquisition of Italian morphology: Implications for models of language development. Journal of Child Language, 19(3), 491–557. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900011557
Poplack, S. (1980). The notion of the plural in Puerto Rican Spanish: Competing constraints on (s) deletion. In Locating Language in Time and Space.
R Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Retrieved from https://www.r-project.org/
Ramer, A. L. H., & Rees, N. S. (1973). Selected aspects of the development of English morphology in black American children of low socioeconomic background. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research.
Ramscar, M., Dye, M., & McCauley, S. M. (2013). Errors and Expectations in Language Learning: The curious absence of mouses in adult speech. Language, 89(4), 760–793. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2013.0068
Ravid, D., & Farah, R. (2009). Noun plurals in early Palestinian Arabic: A longitudinal case study. In U. Stephany & M. D. Voeikova (Eds.), Development of Nominal Inflection in First Language Acquisition: A Cross-linguistic Perspective (pp. 411–432). Mouton de Gruyter.
Roberts, J. (1997). Acquisition of variable rules: A study of (-t, d) deletion in preschool children. Journal of Child Language. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000997003073
Roberts, J., & Labov, W. (1995). Learning to Talk Philadelphian. Language Variation and Change.
Rūķe-Draviņa, V. (1973). On the emergence of inflection in child language: A contribution based on Latvian speech data. In C. A. Ferguson & D. I. Slobin (Eds.), Studies of child language development (pp. 252–267). Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Samara, A., Smith, K., Brown, H., & Wonnacott, E. (2017). Acquiring variation in an artificial language: Children and adults are sensitive to socially conditioned linguistic variation. Cognitive Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.02.004
Schwab, J. F., Lew-Williams, C., & Goldberg, A. E. (2018). When regularization gets it wrong: children over-simplify language input only in production. Journal of Child Language. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0305000918000041
Singleton, J. L., & Newport, E. L. (2004). When learners surpass their models: The acquisition of American Sign Language from inconsistent input. Cognitive Psychology, 49(4), 370–407. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2004.05.001
Slobin, D. I. (1966). The acquisition of Russian as a native language. In F. Smith & G. A. Miller (Eds.), The Genesis of Language: A Psycholinguistic Approach (pp. 129–148).
Smith, J., Durham, M., & Fortune, L. (2007). “Mam, my trousers is fa’in doon!”: Community, caregiver, and child in the acquisition of variation in a Scottish dialect. Language Variation and Change, 19(1), 63–99. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394507070044
Smith, J., Durham, M., & Fortune, L. (2009). Universal and dialect-specific pathways of acquisition: Caregivers, children, and t/d deletion. Language Variation and Change. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394509000039
Suñer, M. (1982). Syntax and Semantics of Spanish Presentational Sentence Types. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Szagun, G. (2001). Learning different regularities: the acquisition of noun plurals by German-speaking children. In First Language (Vol. 21). https://doi.org/10.1177/014272370102106201
Thomas, E. M., Williams, N., Jones, L. A., Davies, S., & Binks, H. (2014). Acquiring complex structures under minority language conditions: Bilingual acquisition of plural morphology in Welsh. Bilingualism, 17(3), 478–494. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728913000497
Yang, C. D. (2002). Knowledge and learning in natural language. Oxford University Press.
Published
2019-11-05
How to Cite
Lukyanenko, Cynthia, and Karen Miller. 2019. “Learning the Plural from Variable Input”. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech 1 (2), 248–279. https://doi.org/10.1558/jmbs.v1i2.11788.
Section
Articles