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J Child Lang. 2008 Feb;35(1):99-127.

Prosodically-conditioned variability in children's production of French determiners.

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  • 1Department of Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, Box 1978, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Researchers have long noted that children's grammatical morphemes are variably produced, raising questions about when and how grammatical competence is acquired. This study examined the spontaneous production of determiners by two French-speaking children aged 1;5-2;5. It found that determiners were produced earlier with monosyllabic words, and later with disyllabic and trisyllabic words. This suggests that French-speaking children's early determiners are prosodically licensed as part of a binary foot, with determiners appearing more consistently only once prosodic representations become more complex. This study therefore provides support for the notion that grammatical morphemes first appear in prosodically licensed contexts, suggesting that some of the early variability in morphological production is systematic and predictable.

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