Nominal compound acquisition in 10 languages: Psycholinguistic evidence from lexical typology

Wolfgang U. Dressler, Marianne Kilani-Schoch, Nihan Ketrez, Reili Argus, Hans Basbøll, Ineta Dabašinskiene, Johanna Johansen Ijäs, Laura Kamandulyte-Merfeldiene, Victoria V. Kazakovskaya, Laila Kjærbæk, Katharina Korecky-Kröll, Klaus Laalo, Sabine Sommer-Lolei, Evangelia Thomadaki, Ursula Stephany

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    We compare typologically (cf. [1]) emergence and early development of nominal compounding in longitudinal spontaneous speech corpora of 10 languages (up to age 3;0). We argue that wealth and productivity of compounding, as reflected in child-directed speech (CDS), morphological decomposition, pattern selection, productivity (specifically profitability) [2] of compounds in child speech (CS) of specific languages are better typological predictors of early emergence than general morphological typology, which characterises, to varying degrees, the investigated languages Turkish, Finnish, Saami as agglutinating, Estonian as agglutinating and inflecting, Lithuanian, Russian and Greek as richly inflecting, German, Danish and French as weakly inflecting. Statistical analysis of interaction effects in a Linear Effects Model confirms that compound richness in CDS of the languages investigated is the best predictor (cf. [4]). For this purpose we apply to first-language acquisition studies the theory and methodology of Lexical Typology [3] in quantifying the percentage of nominal compounds among nouns and studying onomasiologically their rivalry with multilexical words (phrases), derivations (particularly suffixations) and simplex words for each language and relating CS to CDS. The percentage of compound noun tokens ranges from about 1% in Lithuanian, Russian and French CS and CDS to 17% in German, whereas the percentage of compound noun lemmas ranges from more than 2% in Russian and 3.8% in French to 38% in German. These frequencies neither correspond to the morphological type of e.g. French and German (both weakly inflecting) nor are they related to the general wealth and productivity of compounds in adult speech found in written genres and described in grammars. However, rather close frequency relations exist between CS and CDS. The main result of our study is the importance of morphological richness in CDS (see above). Moreover, morphosemantic and morphotactic transparency is greater in CS than in adult speech and, as expected, complexity of compounds rises in the development of CS. Productivity and frequencies of lemmas, types and tokens must be differentiated. Evidence from CS should include relations to CDS and rely less on formal tests, since the latter require a high level of language awareness and have less ecological validity. Moreover, they just provide flashlights into specific developmental phases which usually differ among the participants in tests and are limited to single morphological patterns, whereas our study shows that first compound patterns emerge simultaneously or quasi-simultaneously with first inflection and derivation patterns. Finally it will be discussed whether and to which degree findings of test results from single languages are supported or not by our typological comparison of longitudinal studies. Examples are inversion of compound constituents [5], postulated non-occurrence of “regular” inflection of left-hand constituents [6], status of interfixes (linking elements). References [1] Berman, R.A. 2009. Children’s acquisition of compounds. In The Handbook of Compounding, R. Lieber & P. Štekauer (eds), 298–322. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [2] Bauer, L. 2001. Morphological Productivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [3] Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. 2012. New directions in lexical typology. Linguistics 50: 373–394. [4] Xanthos, Aris, Sabine Laaha, Steven Gillis, Ursula Stephany, Ayhan Aksu-Koç, Anastasia Christofidou, Natalia Gagarina, Gordana Hrzica, F. Nihan Ketrez, Marianne Kilani-Schoch, Katharina Korecky-Kröll, Melita Kovačević, Klaus Laalo, Marijan Palmović, Barbara Pfeiler, Maria D. Voeikova & Wolfgang U. Dressler 2011. On the role of morphological richness in the early development of noun and verb inflection. First Language 31, 461-479. [5] Nicoladis, E. 2006. Pre-school Children’s Acquisition of Compounds.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date10. Sept 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 10. Sept 2017
    EventSocietas Linguistica Europaea (SLE) - University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
    Duration: 10. Sept 201713. Sept 2017


    ConferenceSocietas Linguistica Europaea (SLE)
    LocationUniversity of Zurich

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