Early grammatical development in Cypriot Greek

a CDI study


  • Loukia Taxitari Institute of Computational Linguistics, CNR




Cypriot Greek, grammatical development, CDI


The current study investigates the grammatical development of toddlers acquiring Cypriot Greek as their first language. The MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) was used to collect data from parents of children between 18 and 30 months of age. This is the first large-scale study presenting information on the grammatical development of children in Cyprus, as well as comparisons between grammatical development and other aspects of language development, such as lexical development. The data included information on several grammatical features, such as the formation of plural in nouns, or person in verbs, as well as children’s utterance length (MLU3-w) as a measure of morphosyntactic abilities. The analysis showed a significant increase with age in children’s grammatical complexity (the number of grammatical features produced by children), length of utterance as well as children’s lexicons, with an overall advantage of girls over boys. Additionally, the different grammatical features were shown to develop at different times and pace, with an interesting increase at the end of the second and the beginning of the third year. Overall grammatical development is shown to be ‘piecemeal’, supporting usage-based accounts of morphological development.


Babatsouli, E. & Nicoladis, E. (2019). The acquisition of English possessives by a bilingual child: Do input and usage frequency matter? Journal of Child Language, 46 (1), 170–83. https://doi.org/10.2017/S0305000918000429. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000918000429

Berglund, E. & Eriksson, M. (2000). Reliability and content validity of a new instrument for assessment of communicative skills and language abilities in young Swedish children. Logopedics, Phoniatrics, Vocology, 25(4), 176–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/140154300750067557 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/140154300750067557

Bouchard, C., Trudeau, N. & Sutton, A. N. N. (2009). Gender differences in language development in French Canadian children between 8 and 30 months of age. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 685–707. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716409990075 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716409990075

Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D., Marchman, V. A. & Frank, M. C. (2015). Developmental changes in the relationship between grammar and the lexicon. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.

Burman, D. D., Bitan, T. & Booth, J. R. (2008). Sex differences in neural processing of language among children. Neuropsychologia, 46, 1349–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.021 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.021

Caselli, C., Casadio, P. & Bates, E. (1999). A comparison of the transition from first words to grammar in English and Italian. Journal of Child Language, 26(1), 69–111. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000998003687

Christofidou, A. & Stephany, U. (2003). Early phases in the development of Greek verb inflection. In Dagmar Bittner, Wolfgang U. Dressler and Marianne Kilani-Schoch (eds), Development of verb inflection in first language acquisition: A cross-linguistic perspective (pp. 89–130). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110899832.89

De Houwer, A. (2019). Equitable evaluation of bilingual children’s language knowledge using the CDI: It really matters who you ask. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, 1(1) 32–54. https://doi.org/10.1558/jmbs.11184 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/jmbs.11184

Devescovi, A., Caselli, M. C., Marchione, D., Reilly, J. & Bates, E. (2003). A cross-linguistic study of the relationship between grammar & lexical development. San Diego, CA: Center for Research in Language.

Dressler, W. (2019). Natural Morphology. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.576 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.576

Ezeizabarrena, M. & Fernandez, I. G. (2018). Length of utterance, in morphemes or in words? MLU3-w, a reliable measure of language development in Early Basque. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02265 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02265

Fenson, L., Bates, E., Dale, P. S., Goodman, J., Reznick, J. S. & Thal, D. (2000). Measuring variability in early child language: Don’t shoot the messenger. Child Development, 71(2), 323–28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00147

Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., Bates, E., Thal, D. J. & Pethick, S. J. (1994). Variability in early communicative development. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(5), 1–173. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1166093

Fenson, L., Marchman, V. A., Thal, D. J., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S. & Bates, E. (2007). MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories: User’s guide and technical manual, 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/t11538-000

Frank, M. C., Braginsky, M., Yurovsky, D. & Marchman, V.A. (2016). Wordbank: An open repository for developmental vocabulary data. Journal of Child Language, 44(3), 677–94. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000916000209 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000916000209

Frank, M. C., Braginsky, M., Marchman, V. A. & Yurovsky, D. (2021). Variability and Consistency in Early Language Learning: The Wordbank Project. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11577.001.0001

Frota, S., Butler, J., Correia, S., Severino, C., Vicente, S. & Vigário, M. (2016). Infant communicative development assessed with the European Portuguese MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories short forms. First Language, 36(5), 525–45. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723716648867 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723716648867

Galeas Crocco, G. (2001). What is natural morphology? The state of the art. ??????????? (Linguistics), 13, 7–33.

Grohmann, K. K. (2011). Some directions for the systematic investigation of the acquisition of Cypriot Greek: A new perspective on production abilities from object clitic place­ment. In E. Rinke & T. Kupisch (eds), The development of grammar: Language acquisition and diachronic change. In honour of Jürgen M. Meisel (pp. 179–203). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/hsm.11.10gro DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/hsm.11.10gro

Grohmann, K. K., Kambanaros, M., Leivada, E. & Rowe, C. (2016). A developmental approach to diglossia: Bilectalism on a gradient scale of linguality. Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 52, 4, 629–62. https://doi.org/10.1515/psicl-2016-0025 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/psicl-2016-0025

Huttenlocher, J., Waterfall, H., Vasilyeva, M., Vevea, J. & Hedges, L. V. (2010). Sources of variability in children’s language growth. Cognitive Psychology, 61(4), 343-–65. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.08.002

Kasemi, Y. & Nakhshab, M. (2016). Validity and reliability of grammar section of the Macarthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories-Toddler Form in 16–30 months old Persian-speaking children in Isfahan. MEJDS, 6, 130–136.

Lahey, M., Liebergott, J., Chesnick, M., Menyuk, P. & Adams, J. (1992). Variability in children’s use of grammatical morphemes. Applied Psycholinguistics, 13(3), 373–98. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716400005683 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716400005683

Maital, S., Dromi, E., Sagi, A. & Bornstein, M. (2000). The Hebrew Communicative Dev­elopment Inventory: Language specific properties and cross-linguistic generalizations. Journal of Child Language, 27(1), 43–67. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000999004006 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000999004006

Manika, S., Varlokosta, S. & Wexler, K. (2011). The lack of omission of clitics in Greek children with SLI: An experimental study the lack of omission of clitics in Greek children with SLI: An experimental study. In N. Davis, K. Mesh & H. Sung (eds), Proceedings of the 35th Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville: Cascadilla Press.

Marinis, T. (2000). The acquisition of clitic objects in Modern Greek: ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21248/zaspil.15.2000.32

Paradis, J., Emmerzael, K. & Duncan, T. S. (2010). Assessment of English language learners: Using parent report on first language development. Journal of Communication Disorders, 43, 474–497. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2010.01.002 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2010.01.002

Paradis, J., Genesee, F. & Crago, M. (2011). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

Petinou, K. & Taxitari, L. (2020). Linguistic outcomes and the role of phonology in typically developing and late talking toddlers. In E. Babatsouli & M. J. Ball (eds), An anthology of bilingual child phonology (pp. ???–50). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Petinou, K. & Terzi, A. (2002). Clitic misplacement among normally developing children and children with Specific Language Impairment and the status of inflectional heads. Language Acquisition, 10(1), 1–28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327817LA1001_1

Ramscar, M., Melody, D., Blevins, J. & Baayen H. R. (2018). Morphological development. In A. Bar On & D. Ravit (eds), Handbook of communication disorders. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781614514909-010

Rowe, C. & Grohmann, K. K. (2013). Discrete bilectalism: Towards co-overt prestige and diglossic shift in Cyprus. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 142, 119–42. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2013-0058

Silva, C., Cadime, I., Ribeiro, I., Santos, S., Santos, A. L. & Leopoldina Viana, F. (2017). Parents’ reports of lexical and grammatical aspects of toddlers’ language in European Portuguese: Developmental trends, age and gender differences. First Language, 37(3), 267–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723716689274 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723716689274

Simonsen, H. G., Kristoffersen, K. E., Bleses, D., Wehberg, S. & Jørgensen, R. N. (2013). The Norwegian Communicative Development Inventories: Reliability, main develop­mental trends and gender differences. First Language, 34(1), 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723713510997 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723713510997

Stephany, U. (1997). The acquisition of Greek. In D. I. Slobin (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition 4 (pp. 183–333). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Stephany, U. & Christofidou, A. (2009). The emergence of nominal inflection in Greek. In U. Stephany & M. Voeikova (eds), Development of nominal inflection in first language acquisition: A cross-linguistic perspective (pp. 217–264). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110217117.217

Stephany, U. & Voeikova, M. (2003). On the early development of aspect in Greek and Russian child language, a comparative analysis. ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 29, 211–24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21248/zaspil.29.2003.177

Taxitari, L., Kambanaros, M. & Grohmann, K. K. (2015). A Cypriot Greek adaptation of the CDI: Early production of translation equivalents in a bi-(dia)lectal context. Journal of Greek Linguistics, 15, 122–45. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15699846-01501003

Taxitari, L., Floros, G., Kambanaros, M. and Grohmann, K. K. G. (2017). Early language development in a bilectal context: The Cypriot adaptation of the MacArthur-Bates CDI. In E. Babatsouli, D. Ingram and N. Müller (eds), Crosslinguistic encounters in language acquisition: Typical and atypical development (pp. 145–71). Bristol: Multilingual Matters. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21832/9781783099092-010

Terzi, A., Marinis, T., Kotsopoulou, A. & Francis, K. (2014). Grammatical abilities of Greek-speaking children with autism. Lan, 21(1), 4–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2013.855216 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2013.855216

Tsakali, V. & Wexler, K. (2004). Why children omit clitics in some languages but not in others: New evidence from Greek. In J. van Kampen & S. Baauw (eds), Proceedings of GALA 2003: Vol II (pp. 493–504). Utrecht: LOT.

Tsiplakou, S. (2014). How mixed is a ‘mixed’ system? The case of the Cypriot Greek koiné. Linguistic Variation, 14, 161–78. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/lv.14.1.07tsi

Varlokosta, S., Belletti, A., Costa, J., Friedmann, N., Gavarró, A., Grohmann, K. K., … Yatsushiro, K. (2016). A cross-linguistic study of the acquisition of clitic and pronoun production. Language Acquisition, 23(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2015.1028628 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2015.1028628



How to Cite

Taxitari, Loukia. 2021. “Early Grammatical Development in Cypriot Greek: A CDI Study”. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech 3 (1):40–68. https://doi.org/10.1558/jmbs.15450.