A construction based analysis of child directed speech

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The child directed speech of twelve English-speaking mothers was analyzed in terms of utterance-level constructions. First, the mothers' utterances were categorized in terms of general constructional categories such as Wh-questions, copulas and transitives. Second, mothers' utterances within these categories were further specified in terms of the initial words that framed the utterance, item-based phrases such as Are you ..., I'll ..., It's ..., Let's ..., What did .... The findings were: (i) overall, only about 15% of all maternal utterances had SVO form (most were questions, imperatives, copulas, and fragments); (ii) 51% of all maternal utterances began with one of 52 item-based phrases, mostly consisting of two words or morphemes (45% began with one of just 17 words); and (iii) children used many of these same item-based phrases, in some cases at a rate that correlated highly with their own mother's frequency of use. We suggest that analyses of adult-child linguistic interaction should take into account not just general constructional categories, but also the item-based constructions that adults and children use and the frequency with which they use them. © 2003 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cameron-Faulkner, T; Lieven, E; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • January 1, 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 843 - 873

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0364-0213

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.cogsci.2003.06.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus