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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

By Rudolf Botha

Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"


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Academic Paper


Title: Language-specific noun bias: evidence from bilingual children
Author: Lei Xuan
Institution: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Author: Christine Dollaghan
Institution: University of Texas at Dallas
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
English
Abstract: Most evidence concerning cross-linguistic variation in noun bias, the preponderance of nouns in early expressive lexicons (Gentner, 1982), has come from comparisons of monolingual children acquiring different languages. Such designs are susceptible to a number of potential confounders, including group differences in developmental level and sociodemographic characteristics. The aim of this study was to quantify noun bias in bilingual Mandarin–English toddlers whose expressive lexicons in each language contained 50–300 words. Parents of fifty children (1;10–2;6) reported separately on their English and Mandarin expressive lexicons. The mean percentage of Mandarin nouns (38%) was significantly lower than the percentage of English nouns (54%) and was robust to analyses of twelve potential covariates. Analyses of the most frequently reported words suggested that lexical reduplication could be considered as a potential influence on vocabulary composition in future studies. Results suggest that characteristics of the input significantly shape early lexicons.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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