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Grammatical development
Two sections:
Syntax ­ word order and how the child puts words into
patterns to control meaning
Derivational morphology = study of how morphemes are
used to help create new words;
Inflectional morphology = the study of how morphemes are
used to create different grammatical functions.
Morphemes = smallest unit of grammatical meaning…read more

Slide 2

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Grammatical development - Syntax
Syntax and MLU:
· Syntax = word order
· Syntax in terms of child language refers to putting
words together into patterns and seeing how the
child develops an understanding of how word
order can control meanings.
· As children get older, they produce longer and
more complicated utterances.
· Mean length of utterance (MLU) is a term used to
analyse a child's grammatical development.
· To calculate the MLU add up all the free and
bound morphemes in the utterance, the higher
the number of morphemes, the more developed
the child's language is.…read more

Slide 3

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Pre verbal/'fuzzy area':
· During the babbling stage CVCV structures can
begin to sound like words.
· Proto-words are sounds that sound like words
but aren't related to object referents ­ Steven
Pinker ­ e.g. `goggie' could mean `dog; but
would have to be applied consistently to make
it a clear word.
· Steven Pinker: `A word is a stretch of sound
that expresses a concept'.…read more

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One word/holophrastic stage:
· There is no syntax present as the child only
communicates using single words.
· The first words formed tend to fall into similar
categories, Katherine Nelson labelled these categories:
­ Naming (nouns) ­ e.g. socks, Mummy, cat
­ Action (verbs) ­ e.g. poo, eat, cuddle
­ Social ­ e.g. hello, yes, ta
­ Modifying (determiners/adjectives)­ e.g. more, hot, two
· 60% of children's' first words tend to be nouns.
· These words can be holophrases where one word stands
for a whole phrase and it is up to the adult to speculate
the context.
· Gestalt phrases are often used in this stage ­ two words
that the child has `chunked' together after hearing them
around that they can't yet segment e.g. `allgone'.…read more

Slide 5

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Two word stage (18 months):
· Holophrastic utterances will still be used.
· The two words will generally have accurate syntax and follow one of the following forms as noted
by Roger Brown:
­ Doer + action (subject and verb) ­ e.g. `I eat'
­ Action + undergoer (verb and object) ­ e.g. `Drink juice'
­ Doer + undergoer (subject and object) ­ e.g. `dolly dinner'
­ Possessor + thing (noun and noun) ­ e.g. `mummy dress'
­ Property + thing (adjective and noun) ­ e.g. `big car'
­ Action + location (verb and adverb) ­ e.g. `come here'
· Children will try and imitate adults speech during this stage and although they may not succeed,
the order of words will usually be in the right order.
· According to Bloom (1973) 2 word utterances can indicate many things:
­ Possession ­ e.g. `mummy car'
­ Performing an action ­ e.g. `Adam run'
­ Explaining location ­ e.g. `biscuit cupboard'
­ Desire ­ e.g. `me drink'
· Utterances can be seen as ambiguous as the child hasn't yet begun to use inflectional morphemes
so the meaning is clouded.
· George Braine noted that during the two-word stage patterns of children's two word utterances
seem to resolve around certain keywords ­ `pivot words' that are combined with `open words' ­
less frequent but more varied. E.g. A word like `allgone' would act as a pivot and be combined
with a range of other words to create two word utterances e.g. `allgone Daddy'.…read more

Slide 6

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The telegraphic stage (age 2):
· This is where 3 and 4 word utterances appear.
· Some of these utterances will be grammatically complete but
some will have grammatical words (determiners, auxiliary
verbs, modal auxiliaries and prepositions) missing ­ condense
everything they want to say to include only the key lexical words
­ hence name `telegraphic' ­ links to telegrams which were paid
for by the word and thus grammatical words were omitted.
· Begin to:
­ Form questions
­ Create negatives
­ Create statements
· By age 3 all the grammatical words will be used regularly and
sentences with more than one clause will appear ­ co-ordinating
conjunctions are used (FANBOYS).
· The two word and telegraphic stages are typically the time when
declarative sentence structures are manipulated and syntax is
altered to create questions and negatives.…read more

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Sophie Lord


great thank you 

Paul Dutton


A superb resource packed with lots of information on grammatical development.  Clear examples will be beneficial for students.

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