AuthorNicholas, Katrina Elizabeth
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe purpose of this dissertation is to empirically test the hypothesis that children's omission of functional elements reflects performance factors (McKee, 1994; McKee & Iwasaki, 2001), rather than lack of knowledge (Felix, 1987; Radford, 1990, 1995; Tomasello, 2000). The multi-level production system treats content and function morphemes differently (Garrett, 1982). Further, a function morpheme's free or bound status and the independence of the content stem affect the likelihood that a function morpheme will be omitted. Four experiments each employed production and comprehension tasks testing English- and Icelandic-speaking children's and adults' production and comprehension of different prepositional phrases. The English experiments tested prepositional phrases with content prepositions and content/function preposition combinations. The Icelandic experiments tested prepositional phrases with prepositions and their associated case markings. Function prepositions in English and case markings in Icelandic both convey information about case, with the former being a free function morpheme, and the latter a bound function morpheme. Both English- and Icelandic-speaking children showed comprehension of prepositions that they do not produce. Further, Icelandic-speaking children produced case markings but English-speaking children did not produce function prepositions. These findings support a performance-based hypothesis with omission attributable to coordination issues among elements in the multi-level production system. These findings also show the importance of cross-modality and cross-linguistic research in studying the competence of children before, during, and after the telegraphic speech stage.
Degree ProgramGraduate College