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Syntactic development, its input and output$
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Anat Ninio

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199565962

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565962.001.0001

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Registers and corpora

Registers and corpora

(p.45) Chapter 2 Registers and corpora
Syntactic development, its input and output

Anat Ninio

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews the literature on child-directed speech which is a special register of English. It describes the methodology of the present project that involved the systematic construction of a large corpus of English parental speech addressed at young children and of a smaller corpus of early child speech, representing an age-dialect at Brown's Stage I grammar. After coding by hand for the three core grammatical relations subject-verb, verb-object, and verb-indirect object, the English corpus data reveals a surprising finding about the relationship of parental register and child dialect: the child dialect is almost exactly identical to the parental register in the distribution of the three grammatical relations in the clausal core, despite children's much smaller verbal repertoire. This means that in the composition of core syntax, the child dialect is identical to the parental register, modulo repertoire size. As there are obvious quantitative differences between child speech and parental speech, children need to continue to accumulate item-specific syntactic knowledge for quite a while until they catch up with the parental verbal lexicon. Regardless of the quantitative gap between child speech and parental register, children's speech at Stage I appears to have already caught up with parental speech at the least with respect to some global features.

Keywords:   child speech, parental speech, syntax, special register, parental register, child dialect, English language

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