Structure and Variation in Child Language

Bloom, Lois; Lightbown, Patsy; Hood, Lois; Bowerman, Melissa; Maratsos, Michael

Patterns of structure and variation are described in the language development of four children in the period in which mean length of utterance progressed from 1.0 to approximately 2.5 morphemes. Verb relations were of central importance in the children’s language learning, and there was a similar developmental sequence among the children in the emergence of several semantic-syntactic categories of verb relations. Possible linguistic and cognitive explanations for the obtained developmental sequence are discussed. There was variation among the children in the lexical representation in utterances: although all four children presented the same semantics in their utterances—they talked about the same kinds of things and in the same sequence in the course of development—they did not use the same linguistic means for representing the same information. Two of the children learned a system of pronominal reference to persons and objects in verb relations, whereas the other two children learned categories of nominal forms relative to verbs. The developments within each system were orderly and predictable across time as each child proceeded to learn the other system and thereby acquired the capacity for alternative pronominal and nominal reference.


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Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

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Academic Units
Human Development
Published Here
December 2, 2016