Comparing Different Models of the Development of Verb Inflection in Early Child Spanish

2015-03-11T03:31:42Z (GMT) by Javier Aguado-Orea Julian M. Pine
<div><p>How children acquire knowledge of verb inflection is a long-standing question in language acquisition research. In the present study, we test the predictions of some current constructivist and generativist accounts of the development of verb inflection by focusing on data from two Spanish-speaking children between the ages of 2;0 and 2;6. The constructivist claim that children’s early knowledge of verb inflection is only partially productive is tested by comparing the average number of different inflections per verb in matched samples of child and adult speech. The generativist claim that children’s early use of verb inflection is essentially error-free is tested by investigating the rate at which the children made subject-verb agreement errors in different parts of the present tense paradigm. Our results show: 1) that, although even adults’ use of verb inflection in Spanish tends to look somewhat lexically restricted, both children’s use of verb inflection was significantly less flexible than that of their caregivers, and 2) that, although the rate at which the two children produced subject-verb agreement errors in their speech was very low, this overall error rate hid a consistent pattern of error in which error rates were substantially higher in low frequency than in high frequency contexts, and substantially higher for low frequency than for high frequency verbs. These results undermine the claim that children’s use of verb inflection is fully productive from the earliest observable stages, and are consistent with the constructivist claim that knowledge of verb inflection develops only gradually.</p></div>