The acquisition of English modal constructions : A corpus-based analysis

Bell, Kimberly and Brandt, Silke and Lieven, Elena and Theakston, Anna (2023) The acquisition of English modal constructions : A corpus-based analysis. Journal of Child Language. ISSN 0305-0009

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The English modal system is complex, exhibiting many-to-one, and one-to-many, form- function mappings. Usage-based approaches emphasise the role of the input in acquisition but rarely address the impact of form-function mappings on acquisition. To test whether consistent form-function mappings facilitate acquisition, we analysed two dense mother-child corpora at age 3 and 4. We examined the influence on acquisition of input features including form-function mapping frequency and the number of functions a modal signifies, using innovative methodological controls for other aspects of the input (e.g. form frequency) and child characteristics (e.g. age as a proxy for socio-cognitive development). The children were more likely to produce the frequent modals and form-function mappings of their input but modals with fewer functions in caregiver speech did not promote acquisition of these forms. Our findings support usage-based approaches to language acquisition and demonstrate the importance of applying appropriate controls when investigating relationships between input and development.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Child Language
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Research Output Funding/yes_externally_funded
?? language acquisitionmodal verbscorpus-based methodologyinputusage-based approachesyes - externally fundednolinguistics and languagelanguage and linguisticspsychology(all)experimental and cognitive psychologydevelopmental and educational psychology ??
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18 Apr 2023 10:50
Last Modified:
05 Jul 2024 00:02