Review Questions: Morphological & Syntactic Development (Cited and Stated Directly from Dr.
Pearl’s Class notes final review session 4)
B/c nonsense sentences can have clear syntax but be incomprehensible when the syntax is
nonsense. On the opposite spectrum, ungrammatical sentences can make perfect sense so
meaning is not solely determined byword order.
Early sentences tend to be imperatives (commands) as well as affirmative, declarative statements
and telegraphic speech. Questions and negations come later. Imperative sentences dominate
Typical grammatical categories included in children’s multi-word speech include nouns,
adjectives, and verbs.
Typical categories missing: determiners (the, a), prepositions (to, by, from) auxiliary verbs (am,
are, was), bound morphes (-s plural marker)
Basic division of meaning: more contentful vs. more grammatical
Morphologically rich languages are not necessarily more difficult for children to learn.
Regular/predictable systems are easier for children to learn than languages that have multiple
exceptions (like English often does).
Development is gradual (though may have spurt-like parts), and there are large ranges—not all
bound morphemes come in at the same time.
The order of acquisition for bound morphemes in English does appear to be similar across
different children, however (even if their rates of development are quite different).
Having a predictable system does not mean a language is necessarily easier to learn. A regular
morphologically rich language like Turkish is no harder for Turkish children to acquire and learn
the inflected forms (i.e. ‘laughed’) before they even combine words in multiple word utterances.
Strategy would work example: works well for active sentences and meaning matches word order
(“ The knight bumped the dwarf; actual event; knight-bumps-dwarf- = matches word order!);
also works well for sentences where order of mention is the order of action; (lecture 13 notes)
Strategy would not word example: does not work well for passive sentences (“The knight was
bumped by the dwarf” ; actual event: dwarf-bumps-knight = does not match word order); does
not work well for sentences where order of mention does not match order of action
Children have knowledge of grammatical constructions even before they can produce all the
words themselves—and what was previously that to be telegraphic speech might just be a severe
form of “baby accent” Evidence: 2 to 3 year old French children have phonetic placeholders for auxiliary words like am
and are and use them as they would use the actual words; they realize that something goes where
the auxiliary words are meant to be (emit puffs of air sometimes too)
Evidence: Children who are telegraphic speakers prefer to respond to full commands like
“Throw me the ball” vs. their own telegraphic speech; they understand the correct way to say it
Evidence: Children are particular about which grammatical morphemes occur where; they can
tell the difference between “Find the dog for me” vs. “Find was dog for me”; kids are sensitive to
Sequence of grammatical development that occurs in comprehension si like the sequence in
production but it occurs ealier:
Grammatical competence seems to be achieved fairly early. However, grammatical rules are
acquired quickly. This places constraints on what kind of developmental theory can be
proposed, because it must account for this speedy acquisition theory.
Language has a Zipfian distribution: relatively few items are used very frequently while most
items occur rarely, with amny occurring only once in even large data samples
~Small number of words occur infrequently
~Most of the words you hear are the same stuff
To attain full linguistic competence, the child learner must overcome the Zipfian distribution and
draw generalizations about