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May I Quote You on That?

By Stephen Spector

A guide to English grammar and usage for the twenty-first century, pairing grammar rules with interesting and humorous quotations from American popular culture.

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Academic Paper

Title: Abstract categories or limited-scope formulae? The case of children's determiners
Author: Virginia V Valian
Institution: Hunter College
Author: Stephanie Solt
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft
Author: John Stewart
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Psycholinguistics
Abstract: Six tests of the spontaneous speech of twenty-one English-speaking children (1 ; 10 to 2 ; 8; MLUs 1·53 to 4·38) demonstrate the presence of the syntactic category determiner from the start of combinatorial speech, supporting nativist accounts. Children use multiple determiners before a noun to the same extent as their mothers (1) when only 'a' and 'the' or (2) all determiners are analyzed, or (3) when children and mothers are matched on determiner and noun types and determiner+noun tokens. (4) Overlap increases as opportunity for overlap increases: children use multiple determiners with more than 50% of nouns used at least twice with a determiner and with 80% of nouns used at least six times with a determiner. (5) Formulae play a limited role in low-MLU children's determiner usage, with MLU. (6) Less than 1% of determiner uses are errors. Prior results showing no overlap are likely a sampling artifact.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 36, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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