Early Morphology and Recurring Sound Patterns: Comparing Different Kinds of Data on the Acquisition of Danish Noun Plurals

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Abstract

To enlighten the question how infants and toddlers come to grips with morphological

patterns in a language whose sound structure presents great perceptual difficulties, we

shall discuss aspects of our work on Danish children's acquisition of noun plurals,

including results from The Danish CDI-studies (The MacArthur-Bates

Communicative Developmental Inventory), longitudinal data mainly from The

Odense Twin Corpus, and experimental data.

The Danish CDI-studies consist of a longitudinal study of 182 children followed from

consist of a longitudinal study of 182 children followed from

the age of 0;8 to the age of 2;6 (with a total of more than 4.000 CDI-reports), a crosssectional

study of 6.112 children aged 0;8 to 3;0, supplemented with CDI-reports

from the families of the Odense Twin Corpus (see Bleses et al. 2007; Bleses et al.

forthcoming (JCL) a, b; Wehberg et al. 2007, 2008). The Odense Twin Corpus is a

longitudinal corpus of spontaneous Child Speech and Child Directed Speech recorded

in the children's homes in interaction with their parents or caretaker and transcribed in

CHILDES (MacWhinney 2007 a, b), supplemented by parts of Kim Plunkett's Danish

corpus (CHILDES) (Plunkett 1985, 1986) of two children. The age range for the

longitudinal data is 1;0-3;0. Experiments are of two types, a more structured

("Classical") and a more naturalistic ("Script").

All data presented (longitudinal, experimental and CDI-data) are coded in our

phonetic/phonological/morphological OLAM system. Utterances from our

longitudinal corpora (including the longest sentences reported in the CDI-reports) are

analysed with respect to linguistic complexity, e.g. types of MLU and MLW,

compared to age and vocabulary size. We shall discuss the role of zero endings in

MLU and compare different ways to calculate such measures.

The analysis of the Danish morphological system used is purely sound-based (as

against letter-based) and thereby deviates radically from standard accounts. The

Danish (native) system of nominal pluralisation consists of the suffixes a-schwa and

e-schwa, with or without accompanying stem changes (Basbøll 2005, Ravid et al.

-schwa, with or without accompanying stem changes (Basbøll 2005, Ravid et al.

2008), as well as zero plurals (only very rarely with stem change). The two overt

suffixes are the two neutral vowels in Danish, a category of paramount importance in

Danish phonology: it is decisive in creating the typologically characteristic syllable

structure of Danish with extreme sound reductions (Rischel 2003, Basbøll 2005)

presenting a challenge to the language acquiring child (Bleses & Basbøll 2004).

Building upon the Danish CDI-studies as well as on the Odense Twin Corpus and

experimental data, we shall investigate the emergence of different word forms

(mainly inflectional forms of nouns) and discuss possible reasons behind the patterns

observed. Furthermore, we shall make a comparative analysis of different types of

plural formation and error patterns across all three sets of data. Emphasis will be on

theoretical, methodological and empirical implications of comparing these very

different types of data.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date2008
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventPoznan Linguistic Meeting (PLM) - Gniezno, Poland
Duration: 11. Sept 200814. Sept 2008
Conference number: 39

Conference

ConferencePoznan Linguistic Meeting (PLM)
Number39
Country/TerritoryPoland
CityGniezno
Period11/09/200814/09/2008

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