Monday, October 11, 2010

German children's language acquisition

A collection of research papers.

German children's productivity with tense morphology: the Perfekt (present perfect).

Two nonce-word studies examined German-speaking children's productivity with the Perfekt (present perfect) from 2;6 to 3;6. The German Perfekt consists of the past participle of the main verb and an inflected form of an auxiliary (either haben 'have' or sein 'be'). In Study 1, nonce verbs were either introduced in the infinitival form, and children (seventy-two children, aged 2;6 to 3;6) were tested on their ability to produce the Perfekt, or introduced in the Perfekt, and children were tested on their ability to produce the infinitive. In Study 2 twenty-four children aged 3;6 were given the past participle form of nonce verbs to see if they could supply the appropriate auxiliary (based mainly on verb semantics). The results were that many children as young as 2;6 used past participles productively (more than used infinitival forms productively), but all children had much difficulty in supplying both auxiliaries appropriately. The current findings suggest that mastery of the Perfekt construction as a whole does not take place before the age of four and that frequency of exposure is an important factor in determining the age at which children acquire grammatical constructions.

Aspectual interpretation of early verb forms in German

In the present paper, I will argue that even in a language like German, where the verb system does not contain a grammaticized aspect distinction, aspectual features do underlie the early form-function-mapping of verb forms in L1-acquisition. Furthermore, it will be argued that it is not only past tense forms that may receive an aspectual interpretation in early child language but also other forms of the verbal input. In the case of German, these are the forms of the present tense paradigm and the past participle. Showing and discussing various pieces of evidence for this assumption should strengthen the “aspect before tense” or “primacy of aspect” hypothesis. In general, the paper aims at a deeper understanding of the hierarchical relation between tense and aspect whereby aspect is the basic category and, therefore, aspectual features are the inevitable starting point of the acquisition of grammar.

2 Previous research on L1-acquisition of German verb inflection

From previous studies (cf. Clahsen 1988; Bittner 2003; Ingram, Welti & Priem forthcoming), it is well-known that German children gain command of verb morphology in the following order: -en forms > -t forms (>) -Æ forms; past participles > -st forms … (cf. the verb machen ‘to do’: mach-en – mach-t – mach – ge-mach-t – mach-st). With the exception of the past participle, all of these forms belong to the present tense paradigm and are assumed to assign person-number categories in adult German

The Acquisition of Prefix and Particle Verbs in German: Evidence from CHILDES

Early verb development in one Austrian child

Verb In ections in German Child Language: A Connectionist Account

German children's comprehension of word order and case marking
in causative sentences

Two comprehension experiments were conducted to investigate whether German children
are able to use the grammatical cues of word order and word endings (case-markers) to
identify agents and patients in a causative sentence, and whether they weigh these two cues differently across development. Two-year-olds correctly understood only sentences with both cues supporting each other – the prototypical form. Five-year-olds were able to use word order by itself, but not case-markers. Only seven-year-olds behaved like adults by relying on case-markers over word order when the two cues conflicted. These findings suggest that prototypical instances of linguistic constructions with redundant grammatical marking play a special role in early acquisition, and only later do children isolate and weigh individual grammatical cues appropriately.

Children's verbalizations of motion events in German

Recent studies in language acquisition have paid much attention to linguistic diversity and have begun to show that language properties may have an impact on how children construct and organize their representations. With respect to motion events, Talmy (Towards a cognitive semantics: Concept structuring systems, Cambridge University Press, 2000) has proposed a typological distinction between satellite-framed (S) languages that encode path in satellites, leaving the verb root free for the expression of manner, and verb-framed (V) languages that encode path in the verb, requiring manner to be expressed in the periphery of the sentence. This distinction has lead to the hypothesis (Slobin, From “thought and language” to “thinking for speaking”, Cambridge University Press, 1996) that manner should be more salient for children learning S-languages, who should have no difficulty combining it with path, as compared to those learning V-languages. This hypothesis was tested in a corpus elicited from German children and adults who had to verbalize short animated cartoons showing motion events, and the results are compared with previous analyses of French and English corpora elicited in an identical situation (Hickmann et al., Journal of Child Language, 36: 705–741, 2009). As predicted, and as previously found for English, German children from three years on systematically express both manner (in the verb root) and path (in particles), in sharp contrast to French children, who rarely package manner and path together. These results suggest that, when they are engaged in communication, children construct spatial representations in accordance with the particular properties of their mother tongue. Future research is necessary to determine the extent to which cross-linguistic differences in production may reflect deeper differences in the allocation of attention and in conceptual organization.

Young German children's early syntactic competence: a preferential looking study.

Using a preferential looking methodology with novel verbs, Gertner, Fisher and Eisengart (2006) found that 21-month-old English children seemed to understand the syntactic marking of transitive word order in an abstract, verb-general way. In the current study we tested whether young German children of this same age have this same understanding. Following Gertner et al. (2006), one group of German children was tested only after they had received a training/practice phase containing transitive sentences with familiar verbs and the exact same nouns as those used at test. A second group was tested after a training/practice phase consisting only of familiar verbs, without the nouns used at test. Only the group of children with the training on full transitive sentences was successful in the test. These findings suggest that for children this young to succeed in this test of syntactic understanding, they must first have some kind of relevant linguistic experience immediately prior to testing--which raises the question of the nature of children's linguistic representations at this early point in development.

The input–output relationship in first language

On German Verb Syntax under Age 2

Prosodic Constraints on the Emergence of Grammatical
: Crosslinguistic Evidence from
Germanic and Romance Languages

The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition: the data
edited by Dan Isaac Slobin

How French and German Children of Preschool Age Conceptualize the Writing System.

Presents a continuation of previous research on a general development process consisting of successive levels in conceptualization. Explores how young children conceptualize the writing system. Considers both social background and preschool system of education. Concludes that teaching activities used in French nursery schools are less effective than game activities in German kindergartens in helping students conceptualize writing.

German-speaking children’s productivity with syntactic constructions and case morphology: Local cues act locally

It has been proposed that children acquiring case-marking languages might be quicker to acquire certain constructions than children acquiring word order languages, because the cues involved in grammatical morphology are more ‘local’, whereas word order is an inherently distributed cue (Slobin, 1982). In the current studies using nonce nouns and verbs, we establish that German-speaking children are not productive with passive and active transitive sentence-level constructions at an earlier age than English-speaking children; the majority of children learning both languages are not productive until after their third birthdays. In contrast, in the second and third studies reported here, the majority of German-speaking children were productive with nominative and accusative case marking inside NPs before their third birthdays - and these are of course the very same case markers centrally involved in passive and active transitive constructions. We conclude from these results that, whereas for some functions mastering local cues is all that is required, and this is fairly simple, in other cases, such as the case marking involved in sentence-level syntactic constructions, the mastery of local cues is only one part of the process of forming complex analogical relationships among utterances.

Interlingual and Intralingual Interference during Gender Production in Czech and German

The alignment of lexical and prosodic words in child German: The case of compounds

Based on these observations, I argue that German children align lexical word boundaries with prosodic word boundaries.

1 comment:

Bakunin said...

Thanks a lot, Reineke! I'll read through the research you posted, but I can already see that's what I was looking for.