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  1. Abstract

    Each language has its unique way to mark grammatical information such as gender, number and tense. For example, English marks number and tense/aspect information with morphological suffixes (e.g., ‐sor ‐ed). These morphological suffixes are crucial for language acquisition as they are the basic building blocks of syntax, encode relationships, and convey meaning. Previous research shows that English‐learning infants recognize morphological suffixes attached to nonce words by the end of the first year, although even 8‐month‐olds recognize them when they are attached to known words. These results support an acquisition trajectory where discovery of meaning guides infants' acquisition of morphological suffixes. In this paper, we re‐evaluated English–learning infants' knowledge of morphological suffixes in the first year of life. We found that 6–month–olds successfully segmented nonce words suffixed with–s,–ing,–edand a pseudo‐morpheme ‐sh. Additionally, they related nonce words suffixed with–s, but not ‐ing, ‐edor a pseudo‐morpheme–shand stems. By 8–months, infants were also able to relate nonce words suffixed with–ingand stems. Our results show that infants demonstrate knowledge of morphological relatedness from the earliest stages of acquisition. They do so even in the absence of access to meaning. Based on these results, we argue for a developmental timeline where the acquisition of morphology is, at least, concurrent with the acquisition of phonology and meaning.

     
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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. We asked whether increased exposure to iambs, two-syllable words with stress on the second syllable (e.g., guitar), by way of another language – Spanish – facilitates English learning infants' segmentation of iambs. Spanish has twice as many iambic words (40%) compared to English (20%). Using the Headturn Preference Procedure we tested bilingual Spanish and English learning 8-month-olds' ability to segment English iambs. Monolingual English learning infants succeed at this task only by 11 months. We showed that at 8 months, bilingual Spanish and English learning infants successfully segmented English iambs, and not simply the stressed syllable, unlike their monolingual English learning peers. At the same age, bilingual infants failed to segment Spanish iambs, just like their monolingual Spanish peers. These results cannot be explained by bilingual infants' reliance on transitional probability cues to segment words in both their native languages because statistical cues were comparable in the two languages. Instead, based on their accelerated development, we argue for autonomous but interdependent development of the two languages of bilingual infants. 
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  4. null (Ed.)