General programme, activity sheet

Wednesday 7 September, 2016 15:00 to 15:30 Oral presentation
Frequent frames and word categorization in Spanish and Catalan child-directed speech
Speaker: Sara Feijoo, Universitat de Barcelona

Authors: Sara Feijóo, Elisabet Serrat

Several studies have examined the role of frequent frames in children’s acquisition of grammatical categories in English (Cartwright & Brent, 1997; Mintz, 2003; Redington et al., 1998). More recent studies have shown similar findings across other languages as well (Chemla et al., 2009; Weisleder & Waxman, 2010). However, crosslinguistic analyses have examined the viability of frequent frames across very different languages, but very few studies have compared frames in two typologically close languages. Our study investigates the availability of morphosyntactic frames in Catalan and Spanish by considering syntactic frames with morphological endings as plausible categorizing elements to the right of the intervening word. Since both languages show very similar morphosyntactic patterns, one might infer that the kind of information available to Spanish-learning infants might be similar to the one available to Catalan-learning infants. For the present study, Catalan corpora (Serra, 2000) were analyzed and compared to Spanish corpora (López Ornat, 1994) from the CHILDES database (MacWhinney, 2000). We only considered utterances addressed to children younger than 2;6. The main findings reveal fundamental differences in the role of Spanish and Catalan morphosyntactic frames for noun categorization. Thus, while Spanish frames gave very high completeness scores, Catalan frames were far less powerful. This is because, unlike Spanish nouns, a great proportion of Catalan nouns neutralize their final vowel into schwa in pronunciation. For Catalan nouns, this results in very clear information as far as the left-side categorizing element is concerned (i.e. determiners), but unclear and misleading information as far as the right-side categorizing element is concerned (i.e. inflectional morphological markers). Nevertheless, Catalan nominal categorization based on syntactic frames in the form of bigrams was found to be much stronger than that of Spanish bigrams. Thus, the inconsistency of Catalan frames appears to be compensated by the presence of more reliable bigrams.
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Morphosyntactic development
Place: Room A-15

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