An Exploration of Past Tense Marking and Lexical Aspect
Brian Weiler and C. Melanie Schuele
Past tense verb marking emerges during the preschool years. By the age of five, children with typical language skills use the regular past tense “-ed” marker at a level approaching mastery. Prior to mastery, young children sometimes produce bare verb stems (e.g. “play”) in contexts where inflected forms (e.g. “played”) are obligatory. This period, during which young children inconsistently mark past tense inflections, has been referred to as the Optional Infinitive (OI) stage. This study explored a lexical aspect account of past tense verb marking among preschoolers in the OI stage by examining the accuracy of accomplishment verbs versus the accuracy of achievement verbs. With respect to lexical aspect, achievement verbs differ from accomplishment verbs in that they characterize situations that occur instantaneously (e.g. “kicked a ball”) instead of over time (e.g. “cleaned his room.”) According to the Prototype Account hypothesis, children first mark past tense for achievement verbs and later extend marking to increasingly less “prototypical” meanings of a given verb. Difficulty with past tense marking beyond the Optional Infinitive stage is a hallmark clinical marker of children with language impairment. By furthering our knowledge of the potential lexical factors driving the progression of past tense development in typical children, we might better understand and address past tense difficulties in children with language impairment.
Elicited Production of Infinitival Complements by Preschoolers: Age and Socioeconomic Status Influences
Jamie Fisher and C. Melanie Schuele
The purpose of this study was to examine the production of infinitival complements by preschool children from families of lower and higher socioeconomic status (SES) background. Eighty preschool children, ages 3;0 – 4;11, participated in an elicited story completion task adapted from Eisenberg (2005) . Elicited productions were analyzed for the number of infinitival complements, the number of N-V-TO-V (1 Noun) and N-V-N-TO-V (2 Noun) infinitival complements, the percent inclusion of infinitival to, and the number of different complement taking verbs used to produce infinitival complements. A main effect of age and SES was found for the number of infinitival complements, the number of N-V-TO-V (1 Noun) and N-V-N-TO-V (2 Noun) infinitival complements, and the number of different complement taking verbs used to produce infinitival complements. Results were consistent with Vasilyeva and colleagues (2008), who found that children from the lower SES families used far more simple sentences in their utterances versus children from higher SES families who used more complex syntax, including infinitival complements. It appears the developmental growth patterns of the lower and the higher SES groups between each age group is the same; however, when looking at the groups overall, the lower SES group is clearly behind on all four dependent variables. A possible explanation for the cause of the lag could be due to vocabulary and language input issues.
Production of Infinitival Complements by Children with Specific Language Impairment
Karen Barako Arndt and C. Melanie Schuele
The purpose of this study was to explore the production of infinitival complements by children with SLI as compared to MLU-matched children in an effort to clarify inconsistencies in the literature. Spontaneous language samples were analyzed for infinitival complements (reduced infinitives and true infinitives). Participants included children with SLI (n = 19; 5;2 to 7;10) and children with typical language (n = 19; MLU; 3;0 to 5;9). There was no group difference in the number of infinitival complements and the number of different complement taking verbs. However, the SLI group produced more true infinitives than the MLU group. The SLI group was less accurate than the MLU group on inclusion of obligatory infinitival to, with 80.21% accuracy (SD = 29.42) and 99.81% accuracy (SD = 0.85), respectively. As a group children with SLI did not have problems with the clausal structure of infinitives. However, they had difficulty with the specific grammatical requirement of infinitival clauses, that is, the inclusion of the infinitival marker.
A Longitudinal Study of Complex Syntax Production in Children with SLI
Karen Barako Arndt and C. Melanie Schuele
The study is a longitudinal exploration of complex syntax development in children with SLI. With the exception of Schuele and Dykes’ (2005) longitudinal study on one child with SLI, there is no study of this nature with children with SLI. Such an exploratory study will allow us to better understand the development of complex syntax in children with SLI, as well as to formulate hypotheses regarding complex syntax development to be evaluated in future studies. This exploratory longitudinal study illustrates the trajectory of change of complex syntax over time in thirteen children with SLI.