Children's Representation of Linguistic Stress and Function Morphemes in Early Language Acquisition (REU Supplement)
LouAnn Gerken Principal Investigator
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ABSTRACT The research examines children's representations of two potential cues to the location and grammatical category of words and phrases: linguistic stress and function morphemes. The overwhelming majority of English words begin with a strongly stressed syllable. If children were aware of this regularity, they could use it to identify the beginnings of words in the speech stream. Function morphemes, such as articles and verb inflections, occur at the beginnings and ends of phrases, and could help children to isolate these units. Function morphemes also provide cues about the type of unit that has been isolated, such as Noun Phrase or Verb Phrase. However, we know little about children's representations of stress and function morphemes, and therefore about whether they are able to use such cues in language acquisition. One set of experiments explores the phonological and syntactic nature of function morpheme representations with the use of imitation picture pointing tasks. Another set of experiments is designed to extend previous work on the effect of stress patterns on children's morphemic and non- morphemic weak syllable omissions, and to provide new information about their representation of the canonical stress patterns of their language.