La Is Better than el: The Role of Regularity and Lexical Familiarity in Noun Phrase Production by Young Spanish-Speaking Children
AuthorLindsey, Brittany Anne
Committee ChairGerken, LouAnn
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractLanguage production involves two stages of lexical retrieval with a word’s lemma (meaning, syntax) accessed before its lexeme (form). Adult speakers of gendered languages are said to access gender via the lemma (Vigliocco, Antonini and Garrett, 1997). However, presenting gender incongruous distractors during picture naming does not produce interference for Spanish speakers (Costa, Sebastián-Gallés, Miozzo & Caramazza, 1999; O’Rourke, 2007). Spanish demonstrates predictability between determiner gender and noun form: 96.3% of nouns ending in /a/ are feminine, taking the definite determiner la, and 99.87% of nouns ending in /o/ are masculine, preceded by el (Teschner & Russell 1984). Morphophonological regularity might allow Spanish speakers to bypass lemma-level gender. This dissertation addressed the question of whether young children learning Spanish access gender with the lemma of individual words, utilize language-specific morphophonological regularities alone, or use a combination of lexical familiarity and morphophonological regularity. This was tested in an elicited imitation task manipulating lexical status, congruity and gender. Spanish-English bilingual children (2;0-4;0) and Spanish-speaking adults repeated Spanish words and non-words preceded by gender congruous and incongruous definite articles. If children access gender with lemmas, children should omit fewer articles for words vs. non-words in congruous (el libro-them bookm) versus incongruous conditions (la libro-thef bookm). If children use morphophonological patterns, words should show no advantage; however, children should omit fewer feminine than masculine 12 articles in congruous (la f fupa f) versus incongruous conditions (elm fupa f) since feminine is more regular than masculine. Alternately, if lexical familiarity and morphophonological regularity play a role, children should omit fewer articles for words than non-words and fewer feminine than masculine articles in congruous versus incongruous conditions. The results suggest that children, like adults, use both lexical familiarity and morphophonological regularity to produce determiner-stem sequences. Words exerted an influence, but only in processing efficiency while regularity affected patterns for both words and non-words. Unlike adults, for children regularity was preferred over distributional frequency and lexical familiarity was only advantageous if familiar words demonstrated regular feminine morphology. The data suggest that children use language specific input statistics from early in language production and, additionally, provide evidence for developmental processing strategies.
Degree ProgramSecond Language Acquisition & Teaching