Child Language Acquisition: Grammatical Development

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  • Acquisition of inflections

Cruttenden (1879) divided the acquisition of infections into three stages:

Stage 1 [Inconsistent Usage]:

Children memorise words on individual basis

No regard for general inflection rules

They may produce correct plural form of "foot" (feet), and "run" (ran)

Stage 2 [Consistent Usage but sometimes misapplied]:

Children show awareness for principles governing inflections

May apply regular endings to words that requires irregular inflections

They may observe that plural nouns usually end in -s, so use "foots" as plural for "foot"

May observe that past tense forms usually end in -ed, so use "runned" instead of "ran" (known as overgeneralisation/overregularisation)

Stage 3 [Consistent Usage]:

Correct inflections used, including irregular forms

  • Determiners

Acquired later on in grammatical development

Children struggle to use them accurately

a, the, one, my, some, many, this

  • Stages of Grammatical Development

Holophrastic/one-word stage (12-18 months):

One-word utterances "cup", "Mummy"

Use of holophrases (when a single word is used to convey a more complex message) "juice" might mean "pass me the juice", and parent uses context to understand meaning

Understanding of syntax more advanced than use (children can respond to two-word utterances but cannot produce them)

Two-word stage (18-24 months):

Two-word combinations

Sequences tend to be subject + verb "Jenny sleep"

When repeating speech, words that convey less meaning are omitted "play garden" replaces "I want to play in


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