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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

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By J. C. Wells

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Academic Paper

Title: The relation between order of acquisition, segmental frequency and function: the case of word-initial consonants in Dutch
Author: Lieve Van Severen
Institution: University of Antwerp
Author: Joris J. M. Gillis
Institution: Universiteit Hasselt
Author: Inge Molemans
Institution: University of Antwerp
Author: Renate van den Berg
Institution: University of Antwerp
Author: Sven De Maeyer
Institution: Universiteit Antwerpen
Author: Steven Gillis
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Antwerp
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Dutch
Abstract: The impact of input frequency (IF) and functional load (FL) of segments in the ambient language on the acquisition order of word-initial consonants is investigated. Several definitions of IF/FL are compared and implemented. The impact of IF/FL and their components are computed using a longitudinal corpus of interactions between thirty Dutch-speaking children (age range: 0 ; 6–2 ; 0) and their primary caretaker(s). The corpus study reveals significant correlations between IF/FL and acquisition order. The highest predictive values are found for the token frequency of segments, and for FL computed on minimally different word types in child-directed speech. Although IF and FL significantly correlate, they do have a different impact on the order of acquisition of word-initial consonants. When the impact of IF is partialed out, FL still has a significant correlation with acquisition order. The reverse is not true, suggesting that the acquisition of word-initial consonants is mainly influenced by their discriminating function.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 4.

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