A Cross-Linguistic Study of the Relationship between Grammar & Lexical Development

Sapienza University of Rome, Roma, Latium, Italy
Journal of Child Language (Impact Factor: 1.41). 12/2005; 32(4):759-86. DOI: 10.1017/S0305000905007105
Source: PubMed


The relationship between grammatical and lexical development was compared in 233 English and 233 Italian children aged between 1;6 and 2;6, matched for age, gender, and vocabulary size on the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (CDI). Four different measures of Mean Length of Utterance were applied to the three longest utterances reported by parents, and to corrected/expanded versions representing the 'target' for each utterance. Italians had longer MLUs on most measures, but the ratio of actual to target MLUs did not differ between languages. Age and vocabulary both contributed significant variance to MLU, but the contribution of vocabulary was much larger, suggesting that vocabulary size may provide a better basis for crosslinguistic comparisons of grammatical development. The relationship between MLU and vocabulary size was non-linear in English but linear in Italian, suggesting that grammar 'gets off the ground' earlier in a richly inflected language. A possible mechanism to account for this difference is discussed.

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    • "It could be argued that parents may not report their children's skills accurately, either because of their bias or because they do not have a sufficiently detailed knowledge of their children's mastery of individual words or inflections. However, various studies support the validity of parental reports in the study of child language (Devescovi et al., 2005; Fenson et al., 1994), and overall there is a good agreement between parental reports and direct assessment methods. Parental reports have been used for estimating the overall level of children's vocabulary, but also the development of syntactic and morphological knowledge. "
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    Review of Social Development 02/2014; 23(1). DOI:10.1111/sode.12044 · 1.56 Impact Factor
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    • "A study by Devescovi et al. (2005) focused on the relationship between vocabulary size and four different measures of MLU in Italian and English and yielded interesting results beyond the correlational data from the studies in French, Spanish and Galician mentioned above. Aside from the considerable importance of the crosslinguistic MARISCAL AND GALLEGO comparison between two, typologically speaking, very different languages, the results of that study indicated that vocabulary accounted for more than five times the amount of unique variance explained by age (Devescovi et al., 2005, p. 773). Additionaly, the authors suggested that from a methodological standpoint, their results indicate that vocabulary size may constitute the best basis for comparing samples of children in crosslinguistic studies of grammatical development. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study analyzes the relationship between lexical and grammatical development in Spanish children. The (European) Spanish version of the MacArthur-Bates CDI was used and administered to 593 Spanish-speaking children between the ages of 16 and 30-months-old. Regression analysis was applied to evaluate the relationship between age, vocabulary (total vocabulary, nouns, and verbs) and grammatical scores on two subsections of the Grammar Part. Total vocabulary explained a significantly greater proportion of variance in grammatical outcomes than age did. However, noun and verb vocabularies did not explain a greater proportion of variance in their respective morphologies than total vocabulary did. Additionally, the predictive relationship between vocabulary and grammar was found to be weaker for children whose scores were below the 10th percentile, although this could be due to the minor variability in this group and to extreme cases. We discuss the implications of these results in relation to the question of continuity between early vocabulary and grammar development in children.
    The Spanish Journal of Psychology 03/2012; 15(1):112-23. DOI:10.5209/rev_SJOP.2012.v15.n1.37293 · 0.74 Impact Factor
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    • "In particular, our study proposes a comparison of the rate of noun and verb inflectional development in children acquiring languages which display different degrees of morphological richness. A similar issue is raised by Caselli, Casadio, and Bates (1999) in their comparative CDI (communicative development inventory) study of early lexical and grammatical development in English and Italian (see also Devescovi et al., 2005, p. 782–783; Laaha, 2004, p. 257; Stephany, 1997, p. 200): Italian children will have to acquire far more inflectional morphology than their English learning counterparts. . . . This problem can be resolved in one of two ways (with various points in between): (1) language learning may take much longer in Italian than it does in English, or (2) Italian children may keep pace with their English-speaking counterparts in the proportion of their target grammar that they are able to produce at any given point. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study proposes a new methodology for determining the relationship between child-directed speech and child speech in early acquisition. It illustrates the use of this methodology in investigating the relationship between the morphological richness of child-directed speech and the speed of morphological development in child speech. Both variables are defined in terms of mean size of paradigm (MSP) and estimated in a set of longitudinal spontaneous speech corpora of nine children and their caretakers. The children are aged 1;3–3;0, acquiring nine different languages that vary in terms of morphological richness. The main result is that the degree of morphological richness in child-directed speech is positively related to the speed of development of noun and verb paradigms in child speech.
    First Language 10/2011; 31(4):461-479. DOI:10.1177/0142723711409976
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