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Abstract

Children acquire different linguistic constructions in approximately the same order and near the same time. Nominal (noun + noun) compounds, like “football,” are more complex than simple nominals, like “ball,” and are produced and comprehended later. Previous literature (Berko 1958, Berman 1987, Clark 1981, Clark et al 1985, Krott et al 2009, Nicoladis 2003) investigated how children understand the complexity of compounds, yet questions remain regarding children’s early abilities to produce novel compounds. The present study focused on the ability of one English acquisitionist, “Sam,” to form novel compounds encoding four types of semantic relations (HAS, MADE OF, LOCATED ON, and ABOUT). The tests were elicited production tasks, with one round at 2;6 and a second at 2;9. Sam was prompted to produce five novel compounds of each type. The materials in each round were distinct to ensure that the target is novel. For example, “water flamingo” was used at 2;6 and “soup zebra” at 2;9. At 2;6. Sam was only able to produce compounds in the HAS form, while he flawlessly formed each type at 2;9. These results suggest that HAS is the first strategy acquired, while MADE OF, LOCATED ON, and ABOUT are acquired later. However, it is uncertain whether these three types of compounds were acquired simultaneously or in a certain order. This experiment provides insight towards the abilities of young children to create novel compounds. The results support previous research showing that children begin to learn, understand, and even produce compounds at a young age. Yet, this research is new in showing that the production of novel compounds of different types need not begin simultaneously, and that, for English acquisitionists, it likely begins before the age of 2:6.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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