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Title: Does grammatical number support the acquisition of number words?
The morphosyntactic information in grammatical number marking may be a useful cue for children in the process of acquiring number words. A language with dual marking, like Slovenian, may help children to bootstrap the meaning of the word “two” by drawing their attention to sets of two as a referent of language. If the dual marker indeed facilitates number learning, then we hypothesized that “two” should be acquired earlier in populations exposed to the dual marker; the dual should be learned before “two”; and knowledge of the dual form should be correlated with knowledge of “two”. We tested these hypotheses by having Slovenian and English-speaking children complete the Give-a-Number and Give-Morphology tasks. We analyzed the Give-Morphology in a new way, using stricter criteria to determine that children “know” the morphological markers than simple percent correct. In this sample, Slovenian children exposed to the dual marker did not show evidence of knowing “two” (i.e., being 2-knowers) at very young ages or earlier than English-speaking children. Knowledge of the dual marker did not precede nor correlate with the acquisition of “two”; indeed, the dual form was only acquired after the singular and plural. These analyses were conducted using an open data set with more Slovenian 2-knowers, yielding similar results. These findings present challenges for the view that grammatical number plays a role in number acquisition. This theory requires articulation about how a dual-marked language can facilitate number acquisition if children do not notice or learn the dual form. The information in grammatical number marking may be a useful cue for children in the process of acquiring number words. A language with dual marking, like Slovenian, may help children to bootstrap the meaning of the word “two” by drawing their attention to sets of two as a referent of language. If the dual marker indeed facilitates number learning, we hypothesized that “two” should be acquired earlier in populations exposed to the dual marker; the dual should be learned before “two”; and knowledge of the dual form should be correlated with knowledge of “two”. We tested these hypotheses by having Slovenian and English-speaking children complete the Give-a-Number and Give-Morphology tasks. We analyzed the Give-Morphology in a new way, using stricter criteria to determine that children “know” the morphological markers than simple percent correct. In this sample, Slovenian children exposed to the dual marker did not show evidence of knowing “two” (i.e., being 2-knowers) at very young ages or earlier than English-speaking children. Knowledge of the dual marker did not precede nor correlate with the acquisition of “two”. Indeed, the dual form was acquired only after the singular and plural. Parallel analyses were also conducted using an open data set with more Slovenian 2-knowers, yielding similar results. These findings present challenges for the claim that grammatical number plays a role in number acquisition. Specifically, this theory requires better articulation about how a dual-marked language can facilitate number acquisition if children do not notice or learn the dual form.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2010547
NSF-PAR ID:
10427498
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Editor(s):
Cascadilla Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the 2022 Boston University Conference on Language Development
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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