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Title: A constructivist investigation into the development of Polish noun inflections in children between two- and three-and-a half years of age
Author: Krajewski, Grzegorz
ISNI:       0000 0001 3602 3704
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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The studies presented in this thesis aim at investigating how young children acquire and develop the inflectional system of Polish nouns. The perspective adopted here is a usage-based, constructivist one and the first two chapters motivate this decision. In Chapter 1 the constructivist approach to language acquisition is introduced in general terms and contrasted with the more traditional nativist standpoint. Within the constructivist fr-amework no sharp distinction between words and grammar is maintained and it is proposed that children learn all aspects of their language gradually, by drawing upon general cognitive abilities. Evidence supporting this approach with respect to early syntactic development of English speaking children is reviewed. Chapter 2 focuses on morphology. First, it introduces the inflectional system of Polish nouns, and then, reviews various accounts of both the development of morphology in children and morphological processing in adults. In the end, based on the description of the system and the literature review, it is concluded that morphology is best viewed as an emerging interface between form and meaning, that morphological patterns emerge gradually, and that effects of similarity and frequency are crucial for this process. The following empirical chapters are set to test these claims. The goal is also to find answers to some 'open questions concerning the application of the usage-based model to complex inflectional systems, in particular: whether early inflectional patterns are restricted in their specifications of use, and whether their generalization is based on pairs of inflections, rather than single inflections. Chapter 3 presents a corpus study of a two-year-old child's speech. The main aim is an analysis of productivity in the use of inflections by the child and a critical discussion of various attempts at measuring morphological productivity in naturalistic data is offered. A series of carefully controlled comparisons of the child with her mother permits the conclusion that the child's use of inflections was indeed lexically more restricted than that of the adult. Chapter 4 offers a continuation of naturalistic analyses, focusing on syntactic diversity in the use of noun inflections. A measure of contextual diversity based on a computational approach to corpus psycholinguistics is applied and some issues concerning this application are discussed. The measure indicates that the child's use of inflections is also contextually restricted as compared to her mother. Chapters 5 and 6 report experimental studies, both involving a nonce word elicitation task and two age groups: 2;6 and 3;6 year oIds. The first study shows that the production of a particular inflectional form may be easier or more difficult depending on which other form serves as a departure point. The second study supplements these results, showing that whether a given form is an easy or difficult departure point may be partly determined by which form is the target. Similarity between various inflections seems to play an important role when children attempt to switch between forms. Also, effects of contexts (constructions) in which departure point forms were introduced and in which target forms were elicited were identified. Chapter 7 summarises the main findings, their theoretical implications and considers some directions for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available