Caroline Rowland

Publications

Displaying 1 - 77 of 77
  • Çetinçelik, M., Rowland, C. F., & Snijders, T. M. (2021). Do the eyes have it? A systematic review on the role of eye gaze in infant language development. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 589096. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.589096.

    Abstract

    Eye gaze is a ubiquitous cue in child-caregiver interactions and infants are highly attentive to eye gaze from very early on. However, the question of why infants show gaze-sensitive behavior, and what role this sensitivity to gaze plays in their language development, is not yet well-understood. To gain a better understanding of the role of eye gaze in infants’ language learning, we conducted a broad systematic review of the developmental literature for all studies that investigate the role of eye gaze in infants’ language development. Across 77 peer-reviewed articles containing data from typically-developing human infants (0-24 months) in the domain of language development we identified two broad themes. The first tracked the effect of eye gaze on four developmental domains: (1) vocabulary development, (2) word-object mapping, (3) object processing, and (4) speech processing. Overall, there is considerable evidence that infants learn more about objects and are more likely to form word-object mappings in the presence of eye gaze cues, both of which are necessary for learning words. In addition, there is good evidence for longitudinal relationships between infants’ gaze following abilities and later receptive and expressive vocabulary. However, many domains (e.g. speech processing) are understudied; further work is needed to decide whether gaze effects are specific to tasks such as word-object mapping, or whether they reflect a general learning enhancement mechanism. The second theme explored the reasons why eye gaze might be facilitative for learning, addressing the question of whether eye gaze is treated by infants as a specialized socio-cognitive cue. We concluded that the balance of evidence supports the idea that eye gaze facilitates infants’ learning by enhancing their arousal, memory and attentional capacities to a greater extent than other low-level attentional cues. However, as yet, there are too few studies that directly compare the effect of eye gaze cues and non-social, attentional cues for strong conclusions to be drawn. We also suggest there might be a developmental effect, with eye gaze, over the course of the first two years of life, developing into a truly ostensive cue that enhances language learning across the board.

    Additional information

    data sheet
  • Kidd, L., & Rowland, C. F. (2021). The effect of language-focused professional development on the knowledge and behaviour of preschool practitioners. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 21(1), 27-59. doi:10.1177/1468798418803664.

    Abstract

    The purpose of this project was to investigate the effectiveness of a language-focused professional development programme on the knowledge and behaviour of preschool practitioners (sometimes called early years practitioners) in the UK. In Study 1 we determined whether the training received by practitioners is effective in improving their knowledge of how to support children’s language and communicative development. In Study 2 we tested whether trained practitioners, and practitioners from centres with embedded Language Champions, were able to implement the techniques they had been taught. For this, we video-recorded practitioners interacting, one to one, with 2- and 3–4-year-old children in their centres. We conclude that (1) practitioners retain the knowledge they have been taught, both about how children learn and about how to promote this learning, and that (2), in some respects, this knowledge translates well into practice; practitioners in centres with embedded Language Champions and trained practitioners used language-enriching behaviours when interacting with children more often than did untrained practitioners. We discuss how the translation of some techniques into overt behaviour could be made more effective

    Additional information

    Supplemental_material.pdf
  • Alcock, K., Meints, K., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). The UK communicative development inventories: Words and gestures. Guilford, UK: J&R Press Ltd.
  • Alhama, R. G., Rowland, C. F., & Kidd, E. (2020). Evaluating word embeddings for language acquisition. In E. Chersoni, C. Jacobs, Y. Oseki, L. Prévot, & E. Santus (Eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics (pp. 38-42). Stroudsburg, PA, USA: Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).

    Abstract

    Continuous vector word representations (or word embeddings) have shown success in cap-turing semantic relations between words, as evidenced by evaluation against behavioral data of adult performance on semantic tasks (Pereira et al., 2016). Adult semantic knowl-edge is the endpoint of a language acquisition process; thus, a relevant question is whether these models can also capture emerging word representations of young language learners. However, the data for children’s semantic knowledge across development is scarce. In this paper, we propose to bridge this gap by using Age of Acquisition norms to evaluate word embeddings learnt from child-directed input. We present two methods that evaluate word embeddings in terms of (a) the semantic neighbourhood density of learnt words, and (b) con- vergence to adult word associations. We apply our methods to bag-of-words models, and find that (1) children acquire words with fewer semantic neighbours earlier, and (2) young learners only attend to very local context. These findings provide converging evidence for validity of our methods in understanding the prerequisite features for a distributional model of word learning.
  • Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., Theakston, A. L., & Twomey, K. E. (2020). Introduction. In C. F. Rowland, A. L. Theakston, B. Ambridge, & K. E. Twomey (Eds.), Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn (pp. 1-7). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.int.
  • Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., & Gummery, A. (2020). Teaching the unlearnable: A training study of complex yes/no questions. Language and Cognition, 12(2), 385-410. doi:10.1017/langcog.2020.5.

    Abstract

    A central question in language acquisition is how children master sentence types that they have seldom, if ever, heard. Here we report the findings of a pre-registered, randomised, single-blind intervention study designed to test the prediction that, for one such sentence type, complex questions (e.g., Is the crocodile who’s hot eating?), children could combine schemas learned, on the basis of the input, for complex noun phrases (the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY]) and simple questions (Is [THING] [ACTION]ing?) to yield a complex-question schema (Is [the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY]] ACTIONing?). Children aged 4;2 to 6;8 (M = 5;6, SD = 7.7 months) were trained on simple questions (e.g., Is the bird cleaning?) and either (Experimental group, N = 61) complex noun phrases (e.g., the bird who’s sad) or (Control group, N = 61) matched simple noun phrases (e.g., the sad bird). In general, the two groups did not differ on their ability to produce novel complex questions at test. However, the Experimental group did show (a) some evidence of generalising a particular complex NP schema (the [THING] who’s [PROPERTY] as opposed to the [THING] that’s [PROPERTY]) from training to test, (b) a lower rate of auxiliary-doubling errors (e.g., *Is the crocodile who’s hot is eating?), and (c) a greater ability to produce complex questions on the first test trial. We end by suggesting some different methods – specifically artificial language learning and syntactic priming – that could potentially be used to better test the present account.
  • Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Ambridge, B. (2020). Syntactic representations are both abstract and semantically constrained: Evidence from children’s and adults’ comprehension and production/priming of the English passive. Cognitive Science, 44(9): e12892. doi:10.1111/cogs.12892.

    Abstract

    All accounts of language acquisition agree that, by around age 4, children’s knowledge of grammatical constructions is abstract, rather than tied solely to individual lexical items. The aim of the present research was to investigate, focusing on the passive, whether children’s and adults’ performance is additionally semantically constrained, varying according to the distance between the semantics of the verb and those of the construction. In a forced‐choice pointing study (Experiment 1), both 4‐ to 6‐year olds (N = 60) and adults (N = 60) showed support for the prediction of this semantic construction prototype account of an interaction such that the observed disadvantage for passives as compared to actives (i.e., fewer correct points/longer reaction time) was greater for experiencer‐theme verbs than for agent‐patient and theme‐experiencer verbs (e.g., Bob was seen/hit/frightened by Wendy). Similarly, in a production/priming study (Experiment 2), both 4‐ to 6‐year olds (N = 60) and adults (N = 60) produced fewer passives for experiencer‐theme verbs than for agent‐patient/theme‐experiencer verbs. We conclude that these findings are difficult to explain under accounts based on the notion of A(rgument) movement or of a monostratal, semantics‐free, level of syntax, and instead necessitate some form of semantic construction prototype account.

    Additional information

    Supplementary material
  • Cristia, A., Lavechin, M., Scaff, C., Soderstrom, M., Rowland, C. F., Räsänen, O., Bunce, J., & Bergelson, E. (2020). A thorough evaluation of the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) system. Behavior Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01393-5.

    Abstract

    In the previous decade, dozens of studies involving thousands of children across several research disciplines have made use of a combined daylong audio-recorder and automated algorithmic analysis called the LENAⓇ system, which aims to assess children’s language environment. While the system’s prevalence in the language acquisition domain is steadily growing, there are only scattered validation efforts on only some of its key characteristics. Here, we assess the LENAⓇ system’s accuracy across all of its key measures: speaker classification, Child Vocalization Counts (CVC), Conversational Turn Counts (CTC), and Adult Word Counts (AWC). Our assessment is based on manual annotation of clips that have been randomly or periodically sampled out of daylong recordings, collected from (a) populations similar to the system’s original training data (North American English-learning children aged 3-36 months), (b) children learning another dialect of English (UK), and (c) slightly older children growing up in a different linguistic and socio-cultural setting (Tsimane’ learners in rural Bolivia). We find reasonably high accuracy in some measures (AWC, CVC), with more problematic levels of performance in others (CTC, precision of male adults and other children). Statistical analyses do not support the view that performance is worse for children who are dissimilar from the LENAⓇ original training set. Whether LENAⓇ results are accurate enough for a given research, educational, or clinical application depends largely on the specifics at hand. We therefore conclude with a set of recommendations to help researchers make this determination for their goals.
  • Davies, C., McGillion, M., Rowland, C. F., & Matthews, D. (2020). Can inferencing be trained in preschoolers using shared book-reading? A randomised controlled trial of parents’ inference-eliciting questions on oral inferencing ability. Journal of Child Language, 47(3), 655-679. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000801.

    Abstract

    The ability to make inferences is essential for effective language comprehension. While inferencing training benefits reading comprehension in school-aged children (see Elleman, 2017, for a review), we do not yet know whether it is beneficial to support the development of these skills prior to school entry. In a pre-registered randomised controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of a parent-delivered intervention intended to promote four-year-olds’ oral inferencing skills during shared book-reading. One hundred children from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds were randomly assigned to inferencing training or an active control condition of daily maths activities. The training was found to have no effect on inferencing. However, inferencing measures were highly correlated with children's baseline language ability. This suggests that a more effective approach to scaffolding inferencing in the preschool years might be to focus on promoting vocabulary to develop richer and stronger semantic networks.
  • Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Chang, F., Bidgood, A., Peter, M. S., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Does the understanding of complex dynamic events at 10 months predict vocabulary development? Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/langcog.2020.26.

    Abstract

    By the end of their first year, infants can interpret many different types of complex dynamic visual events, such as caused-motion, chasing, and goal-directed action. Infants of this age are also in the early stages of vocabulary development, producing their first words at around 12 months. The present work examined whether there are meaningful individual differences in infants’ ability to represent dynamic causal events in visual scenes, and whether these differences influence vocabulary development. As part of the longitudinal Language 0–5 Project, 78 10-month-old infants were tested on their ability to interpret three dynamic motion events, involving (a) caused-motion, (b) chasing behaviour, and (c) goal-directed movement. Planned analyses found that infants showed evidence of understanding the first two event types, but not the third. Looking behaviour in each task was not meaningfully related to vocabulary development, nor were there any correlations between the tasks. The results of additional exploratory analyses and simulations suggested that the infants’ understanding of each event may not be predictive of their vocabulary development, and that looking times in these tasks may not be reliably capturing any meaningful individual differences in their knowledge. This raises questions about how to convert experimental group designs to individual differences measures, and how to interpret infant looking time behaviour.
  • Egger, J., Rowland, C. F., & Bergmann, C. (2020). Improving the robustness of infant lexical processing speed measures. Behavior Research Methods, 52, 2188-2201. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01385-5.

    Abstract

    Visual reaction times to target pictures after naming events are an informative measurement in language acquisition research, because gaze shifts measured in looking-while-listening paradigms are an indicator of infants’ lexical speed of processing. This measure is very useful, as it can be applied from a young age onwards and has been linked to later language development. However, to obtain valid reaction times, the infant is required to switch the fixation of their eyes from a distractor to a target object. This means that usually at least half the trials have to be discarded—those where the participant is already fixating the target at the onset of the target word—so that no reaction time can be measured. With few trials, reliability suffers, which is especially problematic when studying individual differences. In order to solve this problem, we developed a gaze-triggered looking-while-listening paradigm. The trials do not differ from the original paradigm apart from the fact that the target object is chosen depending on the infant’s eye fixation before naming. The object the infant is looking at becomes the distractor and the other object is used as the target, requiring a fixation switch, and thus providing a reaction time. We tested our paradigm with forty-three 18-month-old infants, comparing the results to those from the original paradigm. The Gaze-triggered paradigm yielded more valid reaction time trials, as anticipated. The results of a ranked correlation between the conditions confirmed that the manipulated paradigm measures the same concept as the original paradigm.
  • Fazekas, J., Jessop, A., Pine, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Do children learn from their prediction mistakes? A registered report evaluating error-based theories of language acquisition. Royal Society Open Science, 7(11): 180877. doi:10.1098/rsos.180877.

    Abstract

    Error-based theories of language acquisition suggest that children, like adults, continuously make and evaluate predictions in order to reach an adult-like state of language use. However, while these theories have become extremely influential, their central claim - that unpredictable input leads to higher rates of lasting change in linguistic representations – has scarcely been tested. We designed a prime surprisal-based intervention study to assess this claim. As predicted, both 5- to 6-year-old children (n=72) and adults (n=72) showed a pre- to post-test shift towards producing the dative syntactic structure they were exposed to in surprising sentences. The effect was significant in both age groups together, and in the child group separately when participants with ceiling performance in the pre-test were excluded. Secondary predictions were not upheld: we found no verb-based learning effects and there was only reliable evidence for immediate prime surprisal effects in the adult, but not in the child group. To our knowledge this is the first published study demonstrating enhanced learning rates for the same syntactic structure when it appeared in surprising as opposed to predictable contexts, thus providing crucial support for error-based theories of language acquisition.
  • Frost, R. L. A., Jessop, A., Durrant, S., Peter, M. S., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Monaghan, P. (2020). Non-adjacent dependency learning in infancy, and its link to language development. Cognitive Psychology, 120: 101291. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2020.101291.

    Abstract

    To acquire language, infants must learn how to identify words and linguistic structure in speech. Statistical learning has been suggested to assist both of these tasks. However, infants’ capacity to use statistics to discover words and structure together remains unclear. Further, it is not yet known how infants’ statistical learning ability relates to their language development. We trained 17-month-old infants on an artificial language comprising non-adjacent dependencies, and examined their looking times on tasks assessing sensitivity to words and structure using an eye-tracked head-turn-preference paradigm. We measured infants’ vocabulary size using a Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) concurrently and at 19, 21, 24, 25, 27, and 30 months to relate performance to language development. Infants could segment the words from speech, demonstrated by a significant difference in looking times to words versus part-words. Infants’ segmentation performance was significantly related to their vocabulary size (receptive and expressive) both currently, and over time (receptive until 24 months, expressive until 30 months), but was not related to the rate of vocabulary growth. The data also suggest infants may have developed sensitivity to generalised structure, indicating similar statistical learning mechanisms may contribute to the discovery of words and structure in speech, but this was not related to vocabulary size.

    Additional information

    Supplementary data
  • Kidd, E., Bigood, A., Donnelly, S., Durrant, S., Peter, M. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Individual differences in first language acquisition and their theoretical implications. In C. F. Rowland, A. L. Theakston, B. Ambridge, & K. E. Twomey (Eds.), Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn (pp. 189-219). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.09kid.

    Abstract

    Much of Lieven’s pioneering work has helped move the study of individual differences to the centre of child language research. The goal of the present chapter is to illustrate how the study of individual differences provides crucial insights into the language acquisition process. In part one, we summarise some of the evidence showing how pervasive individual differences are across the whole of the language system; from gestures to morphosyntax. In part two, we describe three causal factors implicated in explaining individual differences, which, we argue, must be built into any theory of language acquisition (intrinsic differences in the neurocognitive learning mechanisms, the child’s communicative environment, and developmental cascades in which each new linguistic skill that the child has to acquire depends critically on the prior acquisition of foundational abilities). In part three, we present an example study on the role of the speed of linguistic processing on vocabulary development, which illustrates our approach to individual differences. The results show evidence of a changing relationship between lexical processing speed and vocabulary over developmental time, perhaps as a result of the changing nature of the structure of the lexicon. The study thus highlights the benefits of an individual differences approach in building, testing, and constraining theories of language acquisition.
  • Lingwood, J., Levy, R., Billington, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Barriers and solutions to participation in family-based education interventions. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 23(2), 185-198. doi:10.1080/13645579.2019.1645377.

    Abstract

    The fact that many sub-populations do not take part in research, especially participants fromlower socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, is a serious problem in education research. Toincrease the participation of such groups we must discover what social, economic andpractical factors prevent participation, and how to overcome these barriers. In the currentpaper, we review the literature on this topic, before describing a case study that demonstratesfour potential solutions to four barriers to participation in a shared reading intervention forfamilies from lower SES backgrounds. We discuss the implications of our findings forfamily-based interventions more generally, and the difficulty of balancing strategies toencourage participation with adhering to the methodological integrity of a research study

    Additional information

    supplemental material
  • Lingwood, J., Billington, J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Evaluating the effectiveness of a ‘real‐world’ shared reading intervention for preschool children and their families: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Research in Reading, 43(3), 249-271. doi:10.1111/1467-9817.12301.

    Abstract

    Background: Shared reading interventions can impact positively on preschool children’s language development and on their caregiver’s attitudes/behaviours towards reading. However, a number of barriers may discourage families from engaging with these interventions, particularly families from lower socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. We investigated how families from such backgrounds responded to an intervention designed explicitly to overcome these barriers. Methods: In a preregistered cluster randomised controlled trial, 85 lower SES families and their 3-year-old to 4-year-old children from 10 different preschools were randomly allocated to take part in The Reader’s Shared Reading programme (intervention) or an existing ‘Story Time’ group at a library (control) once a week for 8 weeks. Three outcome measures were assessed at baseline and post intervention: (1) attendance, (2) enjoyment of the reading groups and (3) caregivers’ knowledge of, attitudes and behaviours towards reading. A fourth children’s vocabulary – was assessed at baseline and 4 weeks post intervention. Results: Families were significantly more likely to attend the intervention group and rated it more favourably, compared with the control group. However, there were no significant effects on caregivers’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours or on children’s language. Conclusion: The intervention was only successful in engaging families from disadvantaged backgrounds in shared reading. Implications for the use, duration and intensity of shared reading interventions are discussed.

    Additional information

    Data, scripts and output files
  • Muhinyi, A., Hesketh, A., Stewart, A. J., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). Story choice matters for caregiver extra-textual talk during shared reading with preschoolers. Journal of Child Language, 47(3), 633-654. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000783.

    Abstract

    This study aimed to examine the influence of the complexity of the story-book on caregiver extra-textual talk (i.e., interactions beyond text reading) during shared reading with preschool-age children. Fifty-three mother–child dyads (3;00–4;11) were video-recorded sharing two ostensibly similar picture-books: a simple story (containing no false belief) and a complex story (containing a false belief central to the plot, which provided content that was more challenging for preschoolers to understand). Book-reading interactions were transcribed and coded. Results showed that the complex stories facilitated more extra-textual talk from mothers, and a higher quality of extra-textual talk (as indexed by linguistic richness and level of abstraction). Although the type of story did not affect the number of questions mothers posed, more elaborative follow-ups on children's responses were provided by mothers when sharing complex stories. Complex stories may facilitate more and linguistically richer caregiver extra-textual talk, having implications for preschoolers’ developing language abilities.
  • Noble, C., Cameron-Faulkner, T., Jessop, A., Coates, A., Sawyer, H., Taylor-Ims, R., & Rowland, C. F. (2020). The impact of interactive shared book reading on children's language skills: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 63(6), 1878-1897. doi:10.1044/2020_JSLHR-19-00288.

    Abstract

    Purpose: Research has indicated that interactive shared book reading can support a wide range of early language skills and that children who are read to regularly in the early years learn language faster, enter school with a larger vocabulary, and become more successful readers at school. Despite the large volume of research suggesting interactive shared reading is beneficial for language development, two fundamental issues remain outstanding: whether shared book reading interventions are equally effective (a) for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds and (b) for a range of language skills. Method: To address these issues, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of two 6-week interactive shared reading interventions on a range of language skills in children across the socioeconomic spectrum. One hundred and fifty children aged between 2;6 and 3;0 (years;months) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a pause reading, a dialogic reading, or an active shared reading control condition. Results: The findings indicated that the interventions were effective at changing caregiver reading behaviors. However, the interventions did not boost children’s language skills over and above the effect of an active reading control condition. There were also no effects of socioeconomic status. Conclusion: This randomized controlled trial showed that caregivers from all socioeconomic backgrounds successfully adopted an interactive shared reading style. However, while the interventions were effective at increasing caregivers’ use of interactive shared book reading behaviors, this did not have a significant impact on the children’s language skills. The findings are discussed in terms of practical implications and future research.

    Additional information

    Supplemental Material
  • Rowland, C. F., Theakston, A. L., Ambridge, B., & Twomey, K. E. (Eds.). (2020). Current Perspectives on Child Language Acquisition: How children use their environment to learn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.27.

    Abstract

    In recent years the field has seen an increasing realisation that the full complexity of language acquisition demands theories that (a) explain how children integrate information from multiple sources in the environment, (b) build linguistic representations at a number of different levels, and (c) learn how to combine these representations in order to communicate effectively. These new findings have stimulated new theoretical perspectives that are more centered on explaining learning as a complex dynamic interaction between the child and her environment. This book is the first attempt to bring some of these new perspectives together in one place. It is a collection of essays written by a group of researchers who all take an approach centered on child-environment interaction, and all of whom have been influenced by the work of Elena Lieven, to whom this collection is dedicated.
  • Rowland, C. F. (2020). Introduction. In M. E. Poulsen (Ed.), The Jerome Bruner Library: From New York to Nijmegen. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Van den Heuvel, H., Oostdijk, N., Rowland, C. F., & Trilsbeek, P. (2020). The CLARIN Knowledge Centre for Atypical Communication Expertise. In N. Calzolari, F. Béchet, P. Blache, K. Choukri, C. Cieri, T. Declerck, S. Goggi, H. Isahara, B. Maegaard, J. Mariani, H. Mazo, A. Moreno, J. Odijk, & S. Piperidis (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC 2020) (pp. 3312-3316). Marseille, France: European Language Resources Association.

    Abstract

    This paper introduces a new CLARIN Knowledge Center which is the K-Centre for Atypical Communication Expertise (ACE for short) which has been established at the Centre for Language and Speech Technology (CLST) at Radboud University. Atypical communication is an umbrella term used here to denote language use by second language learners, people with language disorders or those suffering from language disabilities, but also more broadly by bilinguals and users of sign languages. It involves multiple modalities (text, speech, sign, gesture) and encompasses different developmental stages. ACE closely collaborates with The Language Archive (TLA) at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in order to safeguard GDPR-compliant data storage and access. We explain the mission of ACE and show its potential on a number of showcases and a use case.
  • Noble, C., Sala, G., Peter, M., Lingwood, J., Rowland, C. F., Gobet, F., & Pine, J. (2019). The impact of shared book reading on children's language skills: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 28: 100290. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2019.100290.

    Abstract

    Shared book reading is thought to have a positive impact on young children's language development, with shared reading interventions often run in an attempt to boost children's language skills. However, despite the volume of research in this area, a number of issues remain outstanding. The current meta-analysis explored whether shared reading interventions are equally effective (a) across a range of study designs; (b) across a range of different outcome variables; and (c) for children from different SES groups. It also explored the potentially moderating effects of intervention duration, child age, use of dialogic reading techniques, person delivering the intervention and mode of intervention delivery. Our results show that, while there is an effect of shared reading on language development, this effect is smaller than reported in previous meta-analyses (  = 0.194, p = .002). They also show that this effect is moderated by the type of control group used and is negligible in studies with active control groups (  = 0.028, p = .703). Finally, they show no significant effects of differences in outcome variable (ps ≥ .286), socio-economic status (p = .658), or any of our other potential moderators (ps ≥ .077), and non-significant effects for studies with follow-ups (  = 0.139, p = .200). On the basis of these results, we make a number of recommendations for researchers and educators about the design and implementation of future shared reading interventions.

    Additional information

    Supplementary data
  • Peter, M. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Aligning developmental and processing accounts of implicit and statistical learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 11, 555-572. doi:10.1111/tops.12396.

    Abstract

    A long‐standing question in child language research concerns how children achieve mature syntactic knowledge in the face of a complex linguistic environment. A widely accepted view is that this process involves extracting distributional regularities from the environment in a manner that is incidental and happens, for the most part, without the learner's awareness. In this way, the debate speaks to two associated but separate literatures in language acquisition: statistical learning and implicit learning. Both fields have explored this issue in some depth but, at present, neither the results from the infant studies used by the statistical learning literature nor the artificial grammar learning tasks studies from the implicit learning literature can be used to fully explain how children's syntax becomes adult‐like. In this work, we consider an alternative explanation—that children use error‐based learning to become mature syntax users. We discuss this proposal in the light of the behavioral findings from structural priming studies and the computational findings from Chang, Dell, and Bock's (2006) dual‐path model, which incorporates properties from both statistical and implicit learning, and offers an explanation for syntax learning and structural priming using a common error‐based learning mechanism. We then turn our attention to future directions for the field, here suggesting how structural priming might inform the statistical learning and implicit learning literature on the nature of the learning mechanism.
  • Peter, M. S., Durrant, S., Jessop, A., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Does speed of processing or vocabulary size predict later language growth in toddlers? Cognitive Psychology, 115: 101238. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.101238.

    Abstract

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the way that children acquire cognitive representations depends critically on how their processing system is developing. In particular, recent studies suggest that individual differences in language processing speed play an important role in explaining the speed with which children acquire language. Inconsistencies across studies, however, mean that it is not clear whether this relationship is causal or correlational, whether it is present right across development, or whether it extends beyond word learning to affect other aspects of language learning, like syntax acquisition. To address these issues, the current study used the looking-while-listening paradigm devised by Fernald, Swingley, and Pinto (2001) to test the speed with which a large longitudinal cohort of children (the Language 0–5 Project) processed language at 19, 25, and 31 months of age, and took multiple measures of vocabulary (UKCDI, Lincoln CDI, CDI-III) and syntax (Lincoln CDI) between 8 and 37 months of age. Processing speed correlated with vocabulary size - though this relationship changed over time, and was observed only when there was variation in how well the items used in the looking-while-listening task were known. Fast processing speed was a positive predictor of subsequent vocabulary growth, but only for children with smaller vocabularies. Faster processing speed did, however, predict faster syntactic growth across the whole sample, even when controlling for concurrent vocabulary. The results indicate a relatively direct relationship between processing speed and syntactic development, but point to a more complex interaction between processing speed, vocabulary size and subsequent vocabulary growth.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Kidd, E. (2019). Key issues and future directions: How do children acquire language? In P. Hagoort (Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 181-185). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Wolf, M. C., Smith, A. C., Meyer, A. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Modality effects in vocabulary acquisition. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 1212-1218). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    It is unknown whether modality affects the efficiency with which humans learn novel word forms and their meanings, with previous studies reporting both written and auditory advantages. The current study implements controls whose absence in previous work likely offers explanation for such contradictory findings. In two novel word learning experiments, participants were trained and tested on pseudoword - novel object pairs, with controls on: modality of test, modality of meaning, duration of exposure and transparency of word form. In both experiments word forms were presented in either their written or spoken form, each paired with a pictorial meaning (novel object). Following a 20-minute filler task, participants were tested on their ability to identify the picture-word form pairs on which they were trained. A between subjects design generated four participant groups per experiment 1) written training, written test; 2) written training, spoken test; 3) spoken training, written test; 4) spoken training, spoken test. In Experiment 1 the written stimulus was presented for a time period equal to the duration of the spoken form. Results showed that when the duration of exposure was equal, participants displayed a written training benefit. Given words can be read faster than the time taken for the spoken form to unfold, in Experiment 2 the written form was presented for 300 ms, sufficient time to read the word yet 65% shorter than the duration of the spoken form. No modality effect was observed under these conditions, when exposure to the word form was equivalent. These results demonstrate, at least for proficient readers, that when exposure to the word form is controlled across modalities the efficiency with which word form-meaning associations are learnt does not differ. Our results therefore suggest that, although we typically begin as aural-only word learners, we ultimately converge on developing learning mechanisms that learn equally efficiently from both written and spoken materials.
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T. D., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C. F., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning learning English and an additional language: Norms and effects of linguistic distance. Hoboken: Wiley. doi:10.1111/mono.12348.
  • Rowland, C. F. (2018). The principles of scientific inquiry. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 8(6), 770-775. doi:10.1075/lab.18056.row.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C. F., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2017). Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-NP-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences?: A permutation analysis. PLoS One, 12(10): e0186129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186129.

    Abstract

    We used eye-tracking to investigate if and when children show an incremental bias to assume that the first noun phrase in a sentence is the agent (first-NP-as-agent bias) while processing the meaning of English active and passive transitive sentences. We also investigated whether children can override this bias to successfully distinguish active from passive sentences, after processing the remainder of the sentence frame. For this second question we used eye-tracking (Study 1) and forced-choice pointing (Study 2). For both studies, we used a paradigm in which participants simultaneously saw two novel actions with reversed agent-patient relations while listening to active and passive sentences. We compared English-speaking 25-month-olds and 41-month-olds in between-subjects sentence structure conditions (Active Transitive Condition vs. Passive Condition). A permutation analysis found that both age groups showed a bias to incrementally map the first noun in a sentence onto an agent role. Regarding the second question, 25-month-olds showed some evidence of distinguishing the two structures in the eye-tracking study. However, the 25-month-olds did not distinguish active from passive sentences in the forced choice pointing task. In contrast, the 41-month-old children did reanalyse their initial first-NP-as-agent bias to the extent that they clearly distinguished between active and passive sentences both in the eye-tracking data and in the pointing task. The results are discussed in relation to the development of syntactic (re)parsing.

    Additional information

    Data available from OSF
  • Jones, G., & Rowland, C. F. (2017). Diversity not quantity in caregiver speech: Using computational modeling to isolate the effects of the quantity and the diversity of the input on vocabulary growth. Cognitive Psychology, 98, 1-21. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.07.002.

    Abstract

    Children who hear large amounts of diverse speech learn language more quickly than children who do not. However, high correlations between the amount and the diversity of the input in speech samples makes it difficult to isolate the influence of each. We overcame this problem by controlling the input to a computational model so that amount of exposure to linguistic input (quantity) and the quality of that input (lexical diversity) were independently manipulated. Sublexical, lexical, and multi-word knowledge were charted across development (Study 1), showing that while input quantity may be important early in learning, lexical diversity is ultimately more crucial, a prediction confirmed against children’s data (Study 2). The model trained on a lexically diverse input also performed better on nonword repetition and sentence recall tests (Study 3) and was quicker to learn new words over time (Study 4). A language input that is rich in lexical diversity outperforms equivalent richness in quantity for learned sublexical and lexical knowledge, for well-established language tests, and for acquiring words that have never been encountered before.
  • Monaghan, P., & Rowland, C. F. (2017). Combining language corpora with experimental and computational approaches for language acquisition research. Language Learning, 67(S1), 14-39. doi:10.1111/lang.12221.

    Abstract

    Historically, first language acquisition research was a painstaking process of observation, requiring the laborious hand coding of children's linguistic productions, followed by the generation of abstract theoretical proposals for how the developmental process unfolds. Recently, the ability to collect large-scale corpora of children's language exposure has revolutionized the field. New techniques enable more precise measurements of children's actual language input, and these corpora constrain computational and cognitive theories of language development, which can then generate predictions about learning behavior. We describe several instances where corpus, computational, and experimental work have been productively combined to uncover the first language acquisition process and the richness of multimodal properties of the environment, highlighting how these methods can be extended to address related issues in second language research. Finally, we outline some of the difficulties that can be encountered when applying multimethod approaches and show how these difficulties can be obviated
  • Rowland, C. F., & Monaghan, P. (2017). Developmental psycholinguistics teaches us that we need multi-method, not single-method, approaches to the study of linguistic representation. Commentary on Branigan and Pickering "An experimental approach to linguistic representation". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40: e308. doi:10.1017/S0140525X17000565.

    Abstract

    In developmental psycholinguistics, we have, for many years, been generating and testing theories that propose both descriptions of adult representations and explanations of how those representations develop. We have learnt that restricting ourselves to any one methodology yields only incomplete data about the nature of linguistic representations. We argue that we need a multi-method approach to the study of representation.
  • Ambridge, B., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2016). Is Passive Syntax Semantically Constrained? Evidence From Adult Grammaticality Judgment and Comprehension Studies. Cognitive Science, 40, 1435-1459. doi:10.1111/cogs.12277.

    Abstract

    To explain the phenomenon that certain English verbs resist passivization (e.g., *£5 was cost by the book), Pinker (1989) proposed a semantic constraint on the passive in the adult grammar: The greater the extent to which a verb denotes an action where a patient is affected or acted upon, the greater the extent to which it is compatible with the passive. However, a number of comprehension and production priming studies have cast doubt upon this claim, finding no difference between highly affecting agent-patient/theme-experiencer passives (e.g., Wendy was kicked/frightened by Bob) and non-actional experiencer theme passives (e.g., Wendy was heard by Bob). The present study provides evidence that a semantic constraint is psychologically real, and is readily observed when more fine-grained independent and dependent measures are used (i.e., participant ratings of verb semantics, graded grammaticality judgments, and reaction time in a forced-choice picture-matching comprehension task). We conclude that a semantic constraint on the passive must be incorporated into accounts of the adult grammar.

    Additional information

    cogs12277-sup-0001-DataS1-S2.docx
  • Ambridge, B., Kidd, E., Rowland, C. F., & Theakston, A. L. (2015). Authors' response [The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition]. Journal of Child Language, 42(2), 316-322. doi:10.1017/S0305000914000841.

    Abstract

    Our target paper argued for the ubiquity of frequency effects in acquisition, and that any comprehensive theory must take into account the multiplicity of ways that frequently occurring and co-occurring linguistic units affect the acquisition process. The commentaries on the paper provide a largely unanimous endorsement of this position, but raise additional issues likely to frame further discussion and theoretical development. Specifically, while most commentators did not deny the importance of frequency effects, all saw this as the tip of the theoretical iceberg. In this short response we discuss common themes raised in the commentaries, focusing on the broader issue of what frequency effects mean for language acquisition.

    Additional information

    Target paper
  • Ambridge, B., Bidgood, A., Twomey, K. E., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Freudenthal, D. (2015). Preemption versus Entrenchment: Towards a Construction-General Solution to the Problem of the Retreat from Verb Argument Structure Overgeneralization. PLoS One, 10(4): e0123723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123723.

    Abstract

    Participants aged 5;2-6;8, 9;2-10;6 and 18;1-22;2 (72 at each age) rated verb argument structure overgeneralization errors (e.g., *Daddy giggled the baby) using a five-point scale. The study was designed to investigate the feasibility of two proposed construction-general solutions to the question of how children retreat from, or avoid, such errors. No support was found for the prediction of the preemption hypothesis that the greater the frequency of the verb in the single most nearly synonymous construction (for this example, the periphrastic causative; e.g., Daddy made the baby giggle), the lower the acceptability of the error. Support was found, however, for the prediction of the entrenchment hypothesis that the greater the overall frequency of the verb, regardless of construction, the lower the acceptability of the error, at least for the two older groups. Thus while entrenchment appears to be a robust solution to the problem of the retreat from error, and one that generalizes across different error types, we did not find evidence that this is the case for preemption. The implication is that the solution to the retreat from error lies not with specialized mechanisms, but rather in a probabilistic process of construction competition.
  • Ambridge, B., Kidd, E., Rowland, C. F., & Theakston, A. L. (2015). The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 42(2), 239-273. doi:10.1017/S030500091400049X.

    Abstract

    This review article presents evidence for the claim that frequency effects are pervasive in children's first language acquisition, and hence constitute a phenomenon that any successful account must explain. The article is organized around four key domains of research: children's acquisition of single words, inflectional morphology, simple syntactic constructions, and more advanced constructions. In presenting this evidence, we develop five theses. (i) There exist different types of frequency effect, from effects at the level of concrete lexical strings to effects at the level of abstract cues to thematic-role assignment, as well as effects of both token and type, and absolute and relative, frequency. High-frequency forms are (ii) early acquired and (iii) prevent errors in contexts where they are the target, but also (iv) cause errors in contexts in which a competing lower-frequency form is the target. (v) Frequency effects interact with other factors (e.g. serial position, utterance length), and the patterning of these interactions is generally informative with regard to the nature of the learning mechanism. We conclude by arguing that any successful account of language acquisition, from whatever theoretical standpoint, must be frequency sensitive to the extent that it can explain the effects documented in this review, and outline some types of account that do and do not meet this criterion.

    Additional information

    Author's response
  • Peter, M., Chang, F., Pine, J. M., Blything, R., & Rowland, C. F. (2015). When and how do children develop knowledge of verb argument structure? Evidence from verb bias effects in a structural priming task. Journal of Memory and Language, 81, 1-15. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2014.12.002.

    Abstract

    In this study, we investigated when children develop adult-like verb–structure links, and examined two mechanisms, associative and error-based learning, that might explain how these verb–structure links are learned. Using structural priming, we tested children’s and adults’ ability to use verb–structure links in production in three ways; by manipulating: (1) verb overlap between prime and target, (2) target verb bias, and (3) prime verb bias. Children (aged 3–4 and 5–6 years old) and adults heard and produced double object dative (DOD) and prepositional object dative (PD) primes with DOD- and PD-biased verbs. Although all age groups showed significant evidence of structural priming, only adults showed increased priming when there was verb overlap between prime and target sentences (the lexical boost). The effect of target verb bias also grew with development. Critically, however, the effect of prime verb bias on the size of the priming effect (prime surprisal) was larger in children than in adults, suggesting that verb–structure links are present at the earliest age tested. Taken as a whole, the results suggest that children begin to acquire knowledge about verb-argument structure preferences early in acquisition, but that the ability to use adult-like verb bias in production gradually improves over development. We also argue that this pattern of results is best explained by a learning model that uses an error-based learning mechanism.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Peter, M. (2015). Up to speed? Nursery World Magazine, 15-28 June 2015, 18-20.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., Freudenthal, D., & Chang, F. (2014). Avoiding dative overgeneralisation errors: semantics, statistics or both? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29(2), 218-243. doi:10.1080/01690965.2012.738300.

    Abstract

    How do children eventually come to avoid the production of overgeneralisation errors, in particular, those involving the dative (e.g., *I said her “no”)? The present study addressed this question by obtaining from adults and children (5–6, 9–10 years) judgements of well-formed and over-general datives with 301 different verbs (44 for children). A significant effect of pre-emption—whereby the use of a verb in the prepositional-object (PO)-dative construction constitutes evidence that double-object (DO)-dative uses are not permitted—was observed for every age group. A significant effect of entrenchment—whereby the use of a verb in any construction constitutes evidence that unattested dative uses are not permitted—was also observed for every age group, with both predictors also accounting for developmental change between ages 5–6 and 9–10 years. Adults demonstrated knowledge of a morphophonological constraint that prohibits Latinate verbs from appearing in the DO-dative construction (e.g., *I suggested her the trip). Verbs’ semantic properties (supplied by independent adult raters) explained additional variance for all groups and developmentally, with the relative influence of narrow- vs broad-range semantic properties increasing with age. We conclude by outlining an account of the formation and restriction of argument-structure generalisations designed to accommodate these findings.
  • Bidgood, A., Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2014). The retreat from locative overgeneralisation errors: A novel verb grammaticality judgment study. PLoS One, 9(5): e97634. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097634.

    Abstract

    Whilst some locative verbs alternate between the ground- and figure-locative constructions (e.g. Lisa sprayed the flowers with water/Lisa sprayed water onto the flowers), others are restricted to one construction or the other (e.g. *Lisa filled water into the cup/*Lisa poured the cup with water). The present study investigated two proposals for how learners (aged 5–6, 9–10 and adults) acquire this restriction, using a novel-verb-learning grammaticality-judgment paradigm. In support of the semantic verb class hypothesis, participants in all age groups used the semantic properties of novel verbs to determine the locative constructions (ground/figure/both) in which they could and could not appear. In support of the frequency hypothesis, participants' tolerance of overgeneralisation errors decreased with each increasing level of verb frequency (novel/low/high). These results underline the need to develop an integrated account of the roles of semantics and frequency in the retreat from argument structure overgeneralisation.
  • Rowland, C. F., Noble, C. H., & Chan, A. (2014). Competition all the way down: How children learn word order cues to sentence meaning. In B. MacWhinney, A. Malchukov, & E. Moravcsik (Eds.), Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage (pp. 125-143). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Abstract

    Most work on competing cues in language acquisition has focussed on what happens when cues compete within a certain construction. There has been far less work on what happens when constructions themselves compete. The aim of the present chapter was to explore how the acquisition mechanism copes when constructions compete in a language. We present three experimental studies, all of which focus on the acquisition of the syntactic function of word order as a marker of the Theme-Recipient relation in ditransitives (form-meaning mapping). In Study 1 we investigated how quickly English children acquire form-meaning mappings when there are two competing structures in the language. We demonstrated that English speaking 4-year- olds, but not 3-year-olds, correctly interpreted both preposition al and double object datives, assigning Theme and Recipient participant roles on the basis of word order cues. There was no advantage for the double object dative despite its greater frequency in child directed speech. In Study 2 we looked at acquisition in a language which has no dative alternation –Welsh–to investigate how quickly children acquire form-meaning mapping when there is no competing structure. We demonstrated that Welsh children (Study 2) acquired the prepositional dative at age 3 years, which was much earlier than English children. Finally, in Study 3 we examined bei2 (give) ditransitives in Cantonese, to investigate what happens when there is no dative alternation (as in Welsh), but when the child hears alternative, and possibly competing, word orders in the input. Like the English 3-year-olds, the Cantonese 3-year-olds had not yet acquired the word order marking constraints of bei2 ditransitives. We conclude that there is not only competition between cues but competition between constructions in language acquisition. We suggest an extension to the competition model (Bates & MacWhinney, 1982) whereby generalisations take place across constructions as easily as they take place within constructions, whenever there are salient similarities to form the basis of the generalisation.
  • Rowland, C. F. (2014). Understanding Child Language Acquisition. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Abstract

    Taking an accessible and cross-linguistic approach, Understanding Child Language Acquisition introduces readers to the most important research on child language acquisition over the last fifty years, as well as to some of the most influential theories in the field. Rather than just describing what children can do at different ages, Rowland explains why these research findings are important and what they tell us about how children acquire language. Key features include: Cross-linguistic analysis of how language acquisition differs between languages A chapter on how multilingual children acquire several languages at once Exercises to test comprehension Chapters organised around key questions that discuss the critical issues posed by researchers in the field, with summaries at the end Further reading suggestions to broaden understanding of the subject With its particular focus on outlining key similarities and differences across languages and what this cross-linguistic variation means for our ideas about language acquisition, Understanding Child Language Acquisition forms a comprehensive introduction to the subject for students of linguistics, psychology, and speech and language pathology. Students and instructors will benefit from the comprehensive companion website (www.routledge.com/cw/rowland) that includes a students’ section featuring interactive comprehension exercises, extension activities, chapter recaps and answers to the exercises within the book. Material for instructors includes sample essay questions, answers to the extension activities for students and PowerPoint slides including all the figures from the book
  • Ambridge, B., & Rowland, C. F. (2013). Experimental methods in studying child language acquisition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(2), 149-168. doi:10.1002/wcs.1215.

    Abstract

    This article reviews the some of the most widely used methods used for studying children's language acquisition including (1) spontaneous/naturalistic, diary, parental report data, (2) production methods (elicited production, repetition/elicited imitation, syntactic priming/weird word order), (3) comprehension methods (act-out, pointing, intermodal preferential looking, looking while listening, conditioned head turn preference procedure, functional neuroimaging) and (4) judgment methods (grammaticality/acceptability judgments, yes-no/truth-value judgments). The review outlines the types of studies and age-groups to which each method is most suited, as well as the advantage and disadvantages of each. We conclude by summarising the particular methodological considerations that apply to each paradigm and to experimental design more generally. These include (1) choosing an age-appropriate task that makes communicative sense (2) motivating children to co-operate, (3) choosing a between-/within-subjects design, (4) the use of novel items (e.g., novel verbs), (5) fillers, (6) blocked, counterbalanced and random presentation, (7) the appropriate number of trials and participants, (8) drop-out rates (9) the importance of control conditions, (10) choosing a sensitive dependent measure (11) classification of responses, and (12) using an appropriate statistical test. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:149–168. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1215
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., Chang, F., & Bidgood, A. (2013). The retreat from overgeneralization in child language acquisition: Word learning, morphology, and verb argument structure. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(1), 47-62. doi:10.1002/wcs.1207.

    Abstract

    This review investigates empirical evidence for different theoretical proposals regarding the retreat from overgeneralization errors in three domains: word learning (e.g., *doggie to refer to all animals), morphology [e.g., *spyer, *cooker (one who spies/cooks), *unhate, *unsqueeze, *sitted; *drawed], and verb argument structure [e.g., *Don't giggle me (c.f. Don't make me giggle); *Don't say me that (c.f. Don't say that to me)]. The evidence reviewed provides support for three proposals. First, in support of the pre-emption hypothesis, the acquisition of competing forms that express the desired meaning (e.g., spy for *spyer, sat for *sitted, and Don't make me giggle for *Don't giggle me) appears to block errors. Second, in support of the entrenchment hypothesis, repeated occurrence of particular items in particular constructions (e.g., giggle in the intransitive construction) appears to contribute to an ever strengthening probabilistic inference that non-attested uses (e.g., *Don't giggle me) are ungrammatical for adult speakers. That is, both the rated acceptability and production probability of particular errors decline with increasing frequency of pre-empting and entrenching forms in the input. Third, learners appear to acquire semantic and morphophonological constraints on particular constructions, conceptualized as properties of slots in constructions [e.g., the (VERB) slot in the morphological un-(VERB) construction or the transitive-causative (SUBJECT) (VERB) (OBJECT) argument-structure construction]. Errors occur as children acquire the fine-grained semantic and morphophonological properties of particular items and construction slots, and so become increasingly reluctant to use items in slots with which they are incompatible. Findings also suggest some role for adult feedback and conventionality; the principle that, for many given meanings, there is a conventional form that is used by all members of the speech community.
  • Chang, F., Kidd, E., & Rowland, C. F. (2013). Prediction in processing is a by-product of language learning [Commentary on Pickering & Garrod: An integrated theory of language production and comprehension]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(4), 350-351. doi:10.1017/S0140525X12001495.

    Abstract

    Both children and adults predict the content of upcoming language, suggesting that prediction is useful for learning as well as processing. We present an alternative model which can explain prediction behaviour as a by-product of language learning. We suggest that a consideration of language acquisition places important constraints on Pickering & Garrod's (P&G's) theory.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2012). Semantics versus statistics in the retreat from locative overgeneralization errors. Cognition, 123(2), 260-279. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.01.002.

    Abstract

    The present study investigated how children learn that some verbs may appear in the figure-locative but not the ground-locative construction (e.g., Lisa poured water into the cup; *Lisa poured the cup with water), with some showing the opposite pattern (e.g., *Bart filled water into the cup; Bart filled the cup with water), and others appearing in both (Lisa sprayed water onto the flowers; Lisa sprayed the flowers with water). Grammatical acceptability judgments were obtained for the use of each of 142 locative verbs (60 for children) in each sentence type. Overall, and for each age group individually, the judgment data were best explained by a model that included ratings of the extent to which each verb exhibits both the broad- and narrow-range semantic properties of the figure- and ground-locative constructions (relating mainly to manner and end-state respectively; Pinker, 1989) and the statistical-learning measure of overall verb frequency (entrenchment; Braine & Brooks, 1995). A second statistical-learning measure, frequency in each of the two locative constructions (pre-emption; Goldberg, 1995), was found to have no additional dissociable effect. We conclude by drawing together various theoretical proposals to arrive at a possible account of how semantics and statistics interact in the retreat from overgeneralization.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Chang, F. (2012). The roles of verb semantics, entrenchment, and morphophonology in the retreat from dative argument-structure overgeneralization errors. Language, 88(1), 45-81. doi:10.1353/lan.2012.0000.

    Abstract

    Children (aged five-to-six and nine-to-ten years) and adults rated the acceptability of well-formed sentences and argument-structure overgeneralization errors involving the prepositional-object and double-object dative constructions (e.g. Marge pulled the box to Homer/*Marge pulled Homer the box). In support of the entrenchment hypothesis, a negative correlation was observed between verb frequency and the acceptability of errors, across all age groups. Adults additionally displayed sensitivity to narrow-range semantic constraints on the alternation, rejecting double-object dative uses of novel verbs consistent with prepositional-dative-only classes and vice versa. Adults also provided evidence for the psychological validity of a proposed morphophonological constraint prohibiting Latinate verbs from appearing in the double-object dative. These findings are interpreted in the light of a recent account of argument-structure acquisition, under which children retreat from error by incrementally learning the semantic, phonological, and pragmatic properties associated with particular verbs and particular construction slots.*
  • Rowland, C. F., Chang, F., Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Lieven, E. V. (2012). The development of abstract syntax: Evidence from structural priming and the lexical boost. Cognition, 125(1), 49-63. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.06.008.

    Abstract

    Structural priming paradigms have been influential in shaping theories of adult sentence processing and theories of syntactic development. However, until recently there have been few attempts to provide an integrated account that explains both adult and developmental data. The aim of the present paper was to begin the process of integration by taking a developmental approach to structural priming. Using a dialog comprehension-to-production paradigm, we primed participants (3–4 year olds, 5–6 year olds and adults) with double object datives (Wendy gave Bob a dog) and prepositional datives (Wendy gave a dog to Bob). Half the participants heard the same verb in prime and target (e.g. gave–gave) and half heard a different verb (e.g. sent–gave). The results revealed substantial differences in the magnitude of priming across development. First, there was a small but significant abstract structural priming effect across all age groups, but this effect was larger in younger children than in older children and adults. Second, adding verb overlap between prime and target prompted a large, significant increase in the priming effect in adults (a lexical boost), a small, marginally significant increase in the older children and no increase in the youngest children. The results support the idea that abstract syntactic knowledge can develop independently of verb-specific frames. They also support the idea that different mechanisms may be needed to explain abstract structural priming and lexical priming, as predicted by the implicit learning account (Bock, K., & Griffin, Z. M. (2000). The persistence of structural priming: Transient activation or implicit learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology – General, 129(2), 177–192). Finally, the results illustrate the value of an integrative developmental approach to both theories of adult sentence processing and theories of syntax acquisition.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2011). Children use verb semantics to retreat from overgeneralization errors: A novel verb grammaticality judgment study. Cognitive Linguistics, 22(2), 303-323. doi:10.1515/cogl.2011.012.

    Abstract

    Whilst certain verbs may appear in both the intransitive inchoative and the transitive causative constructions (The ball rolled/The man rolled the ball), others may appear in only the former (The man laughed/*The joke laughed the man). Some accounts argue that children acquire these restrictions using only (or mainly) statistical learning mechanisms such as entrenchment and pre-emption. Others have argued that verb semantics are also important. To test these competing accounts, adults (Experiment 1) and children aged 5–6 and 9–10 (Experiment 2) were taught novel verbs designed to be construed — on the basis of their semantics — as either intransitive-only or alternating. In support of the latter claim, participants' grammaticality judgments revealed that even the youngest group respected these semantic constraints. Frequency (entrenchment) effects were observed for familiar, but not novel, verbs (Experiment 1). We interpret these findings in the light of a new theoretical account designed to yield effects of both verb semantics and entrenchment/pre-emption.
  • Noble, C. H., Rowland, C. F., & Pine, J. M. (2011). Comprehension of argument structure and semantic roles: Evidence from English-learning children and the forced-choice pointing paradigm. Cognitive Science, 35(5), 963-982. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01175.x.

    Abstract

    Research using the intermodal preferential looking paradigm (IPLP) has consistently shown that English-learning children aged 2 can associate transitive argument structure with causal events. However, studies using the same methodology investigating 2-year-old children’s knowledge of the conjoined agent intransitive and semantic role assignment have reported inconsistent findings. The aim of the present study was to establish at what age English-learning children have verb-general knowledge of both transitive and intransitive argument structure using a new method: the forced-choice pointing paradigm. The results suggest that young 2-year-olds can associate transitive structures with causal (or externally caused) events and can use transitive structure to assign agent and patient roles correctly. However, the children were unable to associate the conjoined agent intransitive with noncausal events until aged 3;4. The results confirm the pattern from previous IPLP studies and indicate that children may develop the ability to comprehend different aspects of argument structure at different ages. The implications for theories of language acquisition and the nature of the language acquisition mechanism are discussed.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Noble, C. L. (2011). The role of syntactic structure in children's sentence comprehension: Evidence from the dative. Language Learning and Development, 7(1), 55-75. doi:10.1080/15475441003769411.

    Abstract

    Research has demonstrated that young children quickly acquire knowledge of how the structure of their language encodes meaning. However, this work focused on structurally simple transitives. The present studies investigate childrens' comprehension of the double object dative (e.g., I gave him the box) and the prepositional dative (e.g., I gave the box to him). In Study 1, 3- and 4-year-olds correctly preferred a transfer event reading of prepositional datives with novel verbs (e.g., I'm glorping the rabbit to the duck) but were unable to interpret double object datives (e.g., I'm glorping the duck the rabbit). In Studies 2 and 3, they were able to interpret both dative types when the nouns referring to the theme and recipient were canonically marked (Study 2; I'm glorping the rabbit to Duck) and, to a lesser extent, when they were distinctively but noncanonically marked (Study 3: I'm glorping rabbit to the Duck). Overall, the results suggest that English children have some verb-general knowledge of how dative syntax encodes meaning by 3 years of age, but successful comprehension may require the presence of additional surface cues.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., Jones, R. L., & Clark, V. (2009). A Semantics-Based Approach to the “no negative evidence” problem. Cognitive Science, 33(7), 1301-1316. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2009.01055.x.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown that children retreat from argument-structure overgeneralization errors (e.g., *Don’t giggle me) by inferring that frequently encountered verbs are unlikely to be grammatical in unattested constructions, and by making use of syntax-semantics correspondences (e.g., verbs denoting internally caused actions such as giggling cannot normally be used causatively). The present study tested a new account based on a unitary learning mechanism that combines both of these processes. Seventy-two participants (ages 5–6, 9–10, and adults) rated overgeneralization errors with higher (*The funny man’s joke giggled Bart) and lower (*The funny man giggled Bart) degrees of direct external causation. The errors with more-direct causation were rated as less unacceptable than those with less-direct causation. This finding is consistent with the new account, under which children acquire—in an incremental and probabilistic fashion—the meaning of particular constructions (e.g., transitive causative = direct external causation) and particular verbs, rejecting generalizations where the incompatibility between the two is too great.
  • Ambridge, B., & Rowland, C. F. (2009). Predicting children's errors with negative questions: Testing a schema-combination account. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(2), 225-266. doi:10.1515/COGL.2009.014.

    Abstract

    Positive and negative what, why and yes/no questions with the 3sg auxiliaries can and does were elicited from 50 children aged 3;3–4;3. In support of the constructivist “schema-combination” account, only children who produced a particular positive question type correctly (e.g., What does she want?) produced a characteristic “auxiliary-doubling” error (e.g., *What does she doesn't want?) for the corresponding negative question type. This suggests that these errors are formed by superimposing a positive question frame (e.g., What does THING PROCESS?) and an inappropriate negative frame (e.g., She doesn't PROCESS) learned from declarative utterances. In addition, a significant correlation between input frequency and correct production was observed for 11 of the 12 lexical frames (e.g., What does THING PROCESS?), although some negative question types showed higher rates of error than one might expect based on input frequency alone. Implications for constructivist and generativist theories of question-acquisition are discussed.
  • Dabrowska, E., Rowland, C. F., & Theakston, A. (2009). The acquisition of questions with long-distance dependencies. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(3), 571-597. doi:10.1515/COGL.2009.025.

    Abstract

    A number of researchers have claimed that questions and other constructions with long distance dependencies (LDDs) are acquired relatively early, by age 4 or even earlier, in spite of their complexity. Analysis of LDD questions in the input available to children suggests that they are extremely stereotypical, raising the possibility that children learn lexically specific templates such as WH do you think S-GAP? rather than general rules of the kind postulated in traditional linguistic accounts of this construction. We describe three elicited imitation experiments with children aged from 4;6 to 6;9 and adult controls. Participants were asked to repeat prototypical questions (i.e., questions which match the hypothesised template), unprototypical questions (which depart from it in several respects) and declarative counterparts of both types of interrogative sentences. The children performed significantly better on the prototypical variants of both constructions, even when both variants contained exactly the same lexical material, while adults showed prototypicality e¤ects for LDD questions only. These results suggest that a general declarative complementation construction emerges quite late in development (after age 6), and that even adults rely on lexically specific templates for LDD questions.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Theakston, A. L. (2009). The acquisition of auxiliary syntax: A longitudinal elicitation study. Part 2: The modals and auxiliary DO. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 1471-1492. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0037a).

    Abstract

    Purpose: The study of auxiliary acquisition is central to work on language development and has attracted theoretical work from both nativist and constructivist approaches. This study is part of a 2-part companion set that represents a unique attempt to trace the development of auxiliary syntax by using a longitudinal elicitation methodology. The aim of the research described in this part is to track the development of modal auxiliaries and auxiliary DO in questions and declaratives to provide a more complete picture of the development of the auxiliary system in English-speaking children. Method: Twelve English-speaking children participated in 2 tasks designed to elicit auxiliaries CAN, WILL, and DOES in declaratives and yes/no questions. They completed each task 6 times in total between the ages of 2;10 (years;months) and 3;6. Results: The children’s levels of correct use of the target auxiliaries differed in complex ways according to auxiliary, polarity, and sentence structure, and these relations changed over development. An analysis of the children’s errors also revealed complex interactions between these factors. Conclusions: These data cannot be explained in full by existing theories of auxiliary acquisition. Researchers working within both generativist and constructivist frameworks need to develop more detailed theories of acquisition that predict the pattern of acquisition observed.
  • Theakston, A., & Rowland, C. F. (2009). Introduction to Special Issue: Cognitive approaches to language acquisition. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(3), 477-480. doi:10.1515/COGL.2009.021.
  • Theakston, A. L., & Rowland, C. F. (2009). The acquisition of auxiliary syntax: A longitudinal elicitation study. Part 1: Auxiliary BE. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 1449-1470. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0037).

    Abstract

    Purpose: The question of how and when English-speaking children acquire auxiliaries is the subject of extensive debate. Some researchers posit the existence of innately given Universal Grammar principles to guide acquisition, although some aspects of the auxiliary system must be learned from the input. Others suggest that auxiliaries can be learned without Universal Grammar, citing evidence of piecemeal learning in their support. This study represents a unique attempt to trace the development of auxiliary syntax by using a longitudinal elicitation methodology. Method: Twelve English-speaking children participated in 3 tasks designed to elicit auxiliary BE in declaratives and yes/no and wh-questions. They completed each task 6 times in total between the ages of 2;10 (years;months) and 3;6. Results: The children’s levels of correct use of 2 forms of BE (is,are) differed according to auxiliary form and sentence structure, and these relations changed over development. An analysis of the children’s errors also revealed complex interactions between these factors. Conclusion: These data are problematic for existing accounts of auxiliary acquisition and highlight the need for researchers working within both generativist and constructivist frameworks to develop more detailed theories of acquisition that directly predict the pattern of acquisition observed.
  • Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., & Pine, J. M. (2008). Is structure dependence an innate constraint? New experimental evidence from children's complex-question production. Cognitive Science, 32(1), 222-255. doi:10.1080/03640210701703766.

    Abstract

    According to Crain and Nakayama (1987), when forming complex yes/no questions, children do not make errors such as Is the boy who smoking is crazy? because they have innate knowledge of structure dependence and so will not move the auxiliary from the relative clause. However, simple recurrent networks are also able to avoid such errors, on the basis of surface distributional properties of the input (Lewis & Elman, 2001; Reali & Christiansen, 2005). Two new elicited production studies revealed that (a) children occasionally produce structure-dependence errors and (b) the pattern of children's auxiliary-doubling errors (Is the boy who is smoking is crazy?) suggests a sensitivity to surface co-occurrence patterns in the input. This article concludes that current data do not provide any support for the claim that structure dependence is an innate constraint, and that it is possible that children form a structure-dependent grammar on the basis of exposure to input that exhibits this property.
  • Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., & Young, C. R. (2008). The effect of verb semantic class and verb frequency (entrenchment) on children’s and adults’ graded judgements of argument-structure overgeneralization errors. Cognition, 106(1), 87-129. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2006.12.015.

    Abstract

    Participants (aged 5–6 yrs, 9–10 yrs and adults) rated (using a five-point scale) grammatical (intransitive) and overgeneralized (transitive causative)1 uses of a high frequency, low frequency and novel intransitive verb from each of three semantic classes [Pinker, S. (1989a). Learnability and cognition: the acquisition of argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press]: “directed motion” (fall, tumble), “going out of existence” (disappear, vanish) and “semivoluntary expression of emotion” (laugh, giggle). In support of Pinker’s semantic verb class hypothesis, participants’ preference for grammatical over overgeneralized uses of novel (and English) verbs increased between 5–6 yrs and 9–10 yrs, and was greatest for the latter class, which is associated with the lowest degree of direct external causation (the prototypical meaning of the transitive causative construction). In support of Braine and Brooks’s [Braine, M.D.S., & Brooks, P.J. (1995). Verb argument strucure and the problem of avoiding an overgeneral grammar. In M. Tomasello & W. E. Merriman (Eds.), Beyond names for things: Young children’s acquisition of verbs (pp. 352–376). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum] entrenchment hypothesis, all participants showed the greatest preference for grammatical over ungrammatical uses of high frequency verbs, with this preference smaller for low frequency verbs, and smaller again for novel verbs. We conclude that both the formation of semantic verb classes and entrenchment play a role in children’s retreat from argument-structure overgeneralization errors.
  • Rowland, C. F. (2007). Explaining errors in children’s questions. Cognition, 104(1), 106-134. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2006.05.011.

    Abstract

    The ability to explain the occurrence of errors in children’s speech is an essential component of successful theories of language acquisition. The present study tested some generativist and constructivist predictions about error on the questions produced by ten English-learning children between 2 and 5 years of age. The analyses demonstrated that, as predicted by some generativist theories [e.g. Santelmann, L., Berk, S., Austin, J., Somashekar, S. & Lust. B. (2002). Continuity and development in the acquisition of inversion in yes/no questions: dissociating movement and inflection, Journal of Child Language, 29, 813–842], questions with auxiliary DO attracted higher error rates than those with modal auxiliaries. However, in wh-questions, questions with modals and DO attracted equally high error rates, and these findings could not be explained in terms of problems forming questions with why or negated auxiliaries. It was concluded that the data might be better explained in terms of a constructivist account that suggests that entrenched item-based constructions may be protected from error in children’s speech, and that errors occur when children resort to other operations to produce questions [e.g. Dąbrowska, E. (2000). From formula to schema: the acquisition of English questions. Cognitive Liguistics, 11, 83–102; Rowland, C. F. & Pine, J. M. (2000). Subject-auxiliary inversion errors and wh-question acquisition: What children do know? Journal of Child Language, 27, 157–181; Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press]. However, further work on constructivist theory development is required to allow researchers to make predictions about the nature of these operations.
  • Ambridge, B., Rowland, C. F., Theakston, A. L., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Comparing different accounts of inversion errors in children's non-subject wh-questions: ‘What experimental data can tell us?’. Journal of Child Language, 33(3), 519-557. doi:10.1017/S0305000906007513.

    Abstract

    This study investigated different accounts of children's acquisition of non-subject wh-questions. Questions using each of 4 wh-words (what, who, how and why), and 3 auxiliaries (BE, DO and CAN) in 3sg and 3pl form were elicited from 28 children aged 3;6–4;6. Rates of non-inversion error (Who she is hitting?) were found not to differ by wh-word, auxiliary or number alone, but by lexical auxiliary subtype and by wh-word+lexical auxiliary combination. This finding counts against simple rule-based accounts of question acquisition that include no role for the lexical subtype of the auxiliary, and suggests that children may initially acquire wh-word+lexical auxiliary combinations from the input. For DO questions, auxiliary-doubling errors (What does she does like?) were also observed, although previous research has found that such errors are virtually non-existent for positive questions. Possible reasons for this discrepancy are discussed.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Fletcher, S. L. (2006). The effect of sampling on estimates of lexical specificity and error rates. Journal of Child Language, 33(4), 859-877. doi:10.1017/S0305000906007537.

    Abstract

    Studies based on naturalistic data are a core tool in the field of language acquisition research and have provided thorough descriptions of children's speech. However, these descriptions are inevitably confounded by differences in the relative frequency with which children use words and language structures. The purpose of the present work was to investigate the impact of sampling constraints on estimates of the productivity of children's utterances, and on the validity of error rates. Comparisons were made between five different sized samples of wh-question data produced by one child aged 2;8. First, we assessed whether sampling constraints undermined the claim (e.g. Tomasello, 2000) that the restricted nature of early child speech reflects a lack of adultlike grammatical knowledge. We demonstrated that small samples were equally likely to under- as overestimate lexical specificity in children's speech, and that the reliability of estimates varies according to sample size. We argued that reliable analyses require a comparison with a control sample, such as that from an adult speaker. Second, we investigated the validity of estimates of error rates based on small samples. The results showed that overall error rates underestimate the incidence of error in some rarely produced parts of the system and that analyses on small samples were likely to substantially over- or underestimate error rates in infrequently produced constructions. We concluded that caution must be used when basing arguments about the scope and nature of errors in children's early multi-word productions on analyses of samples of spontaneous speech.
  • Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2006). Note of clarification on the coding of light verbs in ‘Semantic generality, input frequency and the acquisition of syntax’ (Journal of Child Language 31, 61–99). Journal of Child Language, 33(1), 191-197. doi:10.1017/S0305000905007178.

    Abstract

    In our recent paper, ‘Semantic generality, input frequency and the acquisition of syntax’ (Journal of Child Language31, 61–99), we presented data from two-year-old children to examine the question of whether the semantic generality of verbs contributed to their ease and stage of acquisition over and above the effects of their typically high frequency in the language to which children are exposed. We adopted two different categorization schemes to determine whether individual verbs should be considered to be semantically general, or ‘light’, or whether they encoded more specific semantics. These categorization schemes were based on previous work in the literature on the role of semantically general verbs in early verb acquisition, and were designed, in the first case, to be a conservative estimate of semantic generality, including only verbs designated as semantically general by a number of other researchers (e.g. Clark, 1978; Pinker, 1989; Goldberg, 1998), and, in the second case, to be a more inclusive estimate of semantic generality based on Ninio's (1999a,b) suggestion that grammaticalizing verbs encode the semantics associated with semantically general verbs. Under this categorization scheme, a much larger number of verbs were included as semantically general verbs.
  • Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F., Lieven, E. V., & Theakston, A. L. (2005). Testing the Agreement/Tense Omission Model: Why the data on children's use of non-nominative 3psg subjects count against the ATOM. Journal of Child Language, 32(2), 269-289. doi:10.1017/S0305000905006860.

    Abstract

    One of the most influential recent accounts of pronoun case-marking errors in young children's speech is Schütze & Wexler's (1996) Agreement/Tense Omission Model (ATOM). The ATOM predicts that the rate of agreeing verbs with non-nominative subjects will be so low that such errors can be reasonably disregarded as noise in the data. The present study tests this prediction on data from 12 children between the ages of 1;8.22 and 3;0.10. This is done, first, by identifying children who produced a reasonably large number of non-nominative 3psg subjects; second, by estimating the expected rate of agreeing verbs with masculine and feminine non-nominative subjects in these children's speech; and, third, by examining the actual rate at which agreeing verb forms occurred with non-nominative subjects in those areas of the data in which the expected error rate was significantly greater than 10%. The results show, first, that only three of the children produced enough non-nominative subjects to allow a reasonable test of the ATOM to be made; second, that for all three of these children, the only area of the data in which the expected frequency of agreeing verbs with non-nominative subjects was significantly greater than 10% was their use of feminine case-marked subjects; and third, that for all three of these children, the rate of agreeing verbs with non-nominative feminine subjects was over 30%. These results raise serious doubts about the claim that children's use of non-nominative subjects can be explained in terms of AGR optionality, and suggest the need for a model of pronoun case-marking error that can explain why some children produce agreeing verb forms with non-nominative subjects as often as they do.
  • Rowland, C. F., Pine, J. M., Lieven, E. V., & Theakston, A. L. (2005). The incidence of error in young children's wh-questions. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 48, 384-404. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/027).

    Abstract

    Many current generativist theorists suggest that young children possess the grammatical principles of inversion required for question formation but make errors because they find it difficult to learn language-specific rules about how inversion applies. The present study analyzed longitudinal spontaneous sampled data from twelve 2–3-year-old English speaking children and the intensive diary data of 1 child (age 2;7 [years;months] to 2;11) in order to test some of these theories. The results indicated significantly different rates of error use across different auxiliaries. In particular, error rates differed across 2 forms of the same auxiliary subtype (e.g., auxiliary is vs. are), and auxiliary DO and modal auxiliaries attracted significantly higher rates of errors of inversion than other auxiliaries. The authors concluded that current generativist theories might have problems explaining the patterning of errors seen in children's questions, which might be more consistent with a constructivist account of development. However, constructivists need to devise more precise predictions in order to fully explain the acquisition of questions.
  • Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2005). The acquisition of auxiliary syntax: BE and HAVE. Cognitive Linguistics, 16(1), 247-277. doi:10.1515/cogl.2005.16.1.247.

    Abstract

    This study examined patterns of auxiliary provision and omission for the auxiliaries BE and HAVE in a longitudinal data set from 11 children between the ages of two and three years. Four possible explanations for auxiliary omission—a lack of lexical knowledge, performance limitations in production, the Optional Infinitive hypothesis, and patterns of auxiliary use in the input—were examined. The data suggest that although none of these accounts provides a full explanation for the pattern of auxiliary use and nonuse observed in children's early speech, integrating input-based and lexical learning-based accounts of early language acquisition within a constructivist approach appears to provide a possible framework in which to understand the patterns of auxiliary use found in the children's speech. The implications of these findings for models of children's early language acquisition are discussed.
  • Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2004). Semantic generality, input frequency and the acquisition of syntax. Journal of Child Language, 31(1), 61-99. doi:10.1017/S0305000903005956.

    Abstract

    In many areas of language acquisition, researchers have suggested that semantic generality plays an important role in determining the order of acquisition of particular lexical forms. However, generality is typically confounded with the effects of input frequency and it is therefore unclear to what extent semantic generality or input frequency determines the early acquisition of particular lexical items. The present study evaluates the relative influence of semantic status and properties of the input on the acquisition of verbs and their argument structures in the early speech of 9 English-speaking children from 2;0 to 3;0. The children's early verb utterances are examined with respect to (1) the order of acquisition of particular verbs in three different constructions, (2) the syntactic diversity of use of individual verbs, (3) the relative proportional use of semantically general verbs as a function of total verb use, and (4) their grammatical accuracy. The data suggest that although measures of semantic generality correlate with various measures of early verb use, once the effects of verb use in the input are removed, semantic generality is not a significant predictor of early verb use. The implications of these results for semantic-based theories of verb argument structure acquisition are discussed.
  • Paterson, K. B., Liversedge, S. P., Rowland, C. F., & Filik, R. (2003). Children's comprehension of sentences with focus particles. Cognition, 89(3), 263-294. doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(03)00126-4.

    Abstract

    We report three studies investigating children's and adults' comprehension of sentences containing the focus particle only. In Experiments 1 and 2, four groups of participants (6–7 years, 8–10 years, 11–12 years and adult) compared sentences with only in different syntactic positions against pictures that matched or mismatched events described by the sentence. Contrary to previous findings (Crain, S., Ni, W., & Conway, L. (1994). Learning, parsing and modularity. In C. Clifton, L. Frazier, & K. Rayner (Eds.), Perspectives on sentence processing. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Philip, W., & Lynch, E. (1999). Felicity, relevance, and acquisition of the grammar of every and only. In S. C. Howell, S. A. Fish, & T. Keith-Lucas (Eds.), Proceedings of the 24th annual Boston University conference on language development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press) we found that young children predominantly made errors by failing to process contrast information rather than errors in which they failed to use syntactic information to restrict the scope of the particle. Experiment 3 replicated these findings with pre-schoolers.
  • Rowland, C. F., Pine, J. M., Lieven, E. V., & Theakston, A. L. (2003). Determinants of acquisition order in wh-questions: Re-evaluating the role of caregiver speech. Journal of Child Language, 30(3), 609-635. doi:10.1017/S0305000903005695.

    Abstract

    Accounts that specify semantic and/or syntactic complexity as the primary determinant of the order in which children acquire particular words or grammatical constructions have been highly influential in the literature on question acquisition. One explanation of wh-question acquisition in particular suggests that the order in which English speaking children acquire wh-questions is determined by two interlocking linguistic factors; the syntactic function of the wh-word that heads the question and the semantic generality (or ‘lightness’) of the main verb (Bloom, Merkin & Wootten, 1982; Bloom, 1991). Another more recent view, however, is that acquisition is influenced by the relative frequency with which children hear particular wh-words and verbs in their input (e.g. Rowland & Pine, 2000). In the present study over 300 hours of naturalistic data from twelve two- to three-year-old children and their mothers were analysed in order to assess the relative contribution of complexity and input frequency to wh-question acquisition. The analyses revealed, first, that the acquisition order of wh-questions could be predicted successfully from the frequency with which particular wh-words and verbs occurred in the children's input and, second, that syntactic and semantic complexity did not reliably predict acquisition once input frequency was taken into account. These results suggest that the relationship between acquisition and complexity may be a by-product of the high correlation between complexity and the frequency with which mothers use particular wh-words and verbs. We interpret the results in terms of a constructivist view of language acquisition.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Pine, J. M. (2003). The development of inversion in wh-questions: a reply to Van Valin. Journal of Child Language, 30(1), 197-212. doi:10.1017/S0305000902005445.

    Abstract

    Van Valin (Journal of Child Language29, 2002, 161–75) presents a critique of Rowland & Pine (Journal of Child Language27, 2000, 157–81) and argues that the wh-question data from Adam (in Brown, A first language, Cambridge, MA, 1973) cannot be explained in terms of input frequencies as we suggest. Instead, he suggests that the data can be more successfully accounted for in terms of Role and Reference Grammar. In this note we re-examine the pattern of inversion and uninversion in Adam's wh-questions and argue that the RRG explanation cannot account for some of the developmental facts it was designed to explain.
  • Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2002). Going, going, gone: The acquisition of the verb ‘go’. Journal of Child Language, 29(4), 783-811. doi:10.1017/S030500090200538X.

    Abstract

    This study investigated different accounts of early argument structure acquisition and verb paradigm building through the detailed examination of the acquisition of the verb Go. Data from 11 children followed longitudinally between the ages of 2;0 and 3;0 were examined. Children's uses of the different forms of Go were compared with respect to syntactic structure and the semantics encoded. The data are compatible with the suggestion that the children were not operating with a single verb representation that differentiated between different forms of Go but rather that their knowledge of the relationship between the different forms of Go varied depending on the structure produced and the meaning encoded. However, a good predictor of the children's use of different forms of Go in particular structures and to express particular meanings was the frequency of use of those structures and meanings with particular forms of Go in the input. The implications of these findings for theories of syntactic category formation and abstract rule-based descriptions of grammar are discussed.
  • Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V., Pine, J. M., & Rowland, C. F. (2001). The role of performance limitations in the acquisition of verb-argument structure: an alternative account. Journal of Child Language, 28(1), 127-152.

    Abstract

    This study investigates the role of performance limitations in children's early acquisition of verb-argument structure. Valian (1991) claims that intransitive frames are easier for children to produce early in development than transitive frames because they do not require a direct object argument. Children who understand this distinction are expected to produce a lower proportion of transitive verb utterances early in development in comparison with later stages of development and to omit direct objects much more frequently with mixed verbs (where direct objects are optional) than with transitive verbs. To test these claims, data from nine children aged between 1;10.7 and 2;0.25 matched with Valian's subjects on MLU were examined. When analysed in terms of abstract syntactic structures Valian's findings are supported. However, a detailed lexical analysis of the data suggests that the children were not selecting argument structure on the basis of syntactic complexity. Instead, a clear predictor of the frames used by the children with specific verbs was the frames used by the children's mothers with those same verbs, regardless of whether they were transitive or intransitive. This suggests that the most important determinant of the children's use of verb frame was the specific patterns of verb use in the input rather than abstract grammatical knowledge constrained by performance limitations. The implications of these findings for performance-based explanations for children's early errors and early patterns of language use are discussed.
  • Rowland, C. F., & Pine, J. M. (2000). Subject-auxiliary inversion errors and wh-question acquisition: what children do know? Journal of Child Language, 27(1), 157-181.

    Abstract

    The present paper reports an analysis of correct wh-question production and subject–auxiliary inversion errors in one child's early wh-question data (age 2; 3.4 to 4; 10.23). It is argued that two current movement rule accounts (DeVilliers, 1991; Valian, Lasser & Mandelbaum, 1992) cannot explain the patterning of early wh-questions. However, the data can be explained in terms of the child's knowledge of particular lexically-specific wh-word+auxiliary combinations, and the pattern of inversion and uninversion predicted from the relative frequencies of these combinations in the mother's speech. The results support the claim that correctly inverted wh-questions can be produced without access to a subject–auxiliary inversion rule and are consistent with the constructivist claim that a distributional learning mechanism that learns and reproduces lexically-specific formulae heard in the input can explain much of the early multi-word speech data. The implications of these results for movement rule-based and constructivist theories of grammatical development are discussed.
  • Rowland, C. F. (2000). The grammatical acquisition of wh-questions in early English multi-word speech. PhD Thesis, University of Nottingham, UK.

    Abstract

    Recent studies of wh-question acquisition have tended to come from the nativist side of the language acquisition debate with little input from a constructivist perspective. The present work was designed to redress the balance, first by presenting a detailed description of young children's wh-question acquisition data, second, by providing detailed critiques of two nativist theories of wh- question acquisition, and third, by presenting a preliminary account of young children's wh-question development from a constructivist perspective. Analyses of the data from twelve 2 to 3 year old children collected over a year and of data from an older child (Adam from the Brown corpus, 1973) are described and three conclusions are drawn. First it is argued that the data suggest that children's knowledge of how to form wh-questions builds up gradually as they learn how to combine lexical items such as wh-words and auxiliaries in specific ways. Second, it is concluded that two nativist theories of grammatical development (Radford, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, Valian, Lasser & Mandelbaum, 1992) fail to account successfully for the wh-question data produced by the children. Third, it is asserted that the lexically-specific nature of children's early wh-questions is compatible with a lexical constructivist view of development, which proposes that the language learning mechanism learns by picking up high frequency lexical patterns from the input. The implications of these conclusions for theories of language development and future research are discussed.
  • Pine, J. M., Lieven, E. V., & Rowland, C. F. (1998). Comparing different models of the development of the English verb category. Linguistics, 36(4), 807-830. doi:10.1515/ling.1998.36.4.807.

    Abstract

    In this study data from the first six months of 12 children s multiword speech were used to test the validity of Valian's (1991) syntactic perfor-mance-limitation account and Tomasello s (1992) verb-island account of early multiword speech with particular reference to the development of the English verb category. The results provide evidence for appropriate use of verb morphology, auxiliary verb structures, pronoun case marking, and SVO word order from quite early in development. However, they also demonstrate a great deal of lexical specificity in the children's use of these systems, evidenced by a lack of overlap in the verbs to which different morphological markers were applied, a lack of overlap in the verbs with which different auxiliary verbs were used, a disproportionate use of the first person singular nominative pronoun I, and a lack of overlap in the lexical items that served as the subjects and direct objects of transitive verbs. These findings raise problems for both a syntactic performance-limitation account and a strong verb-island account of the data and suggest the need to develop a more general lexiealist account of early multiword speech that explains why some words come to function as "islands" of organization in the child's grammar and others do not.
  • Pine, J. M., Lieven, E. V., & Rowland, C. F. (1997). Stylistic variation at the “single-word” stage: Relations between maternal speech characteristics and children's vocabulary composition and usage. Child Development, 68(5), 807-819. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01963.x.

    Abstract

    In this study we test a number of different claims about the nature of stylistic variation at the “single-word” stage by examining the relation between variation in early vocabulary composition, variation in early language use, and variation in the structural and functional propreties of mothers' child-directed speech. Maternal-report and observational data were collected for 26 children at 10, 50, and 100 words, These were then correlated with a variety of different measures of maternal speech at 10 words, The results show substantial variation in the percentage of common nouns and unanalyzed phrases in children's vocabularies, and singficant relations between this variation and the way in which language is used by the child. They also reveal singficant relations between the way in whch mothers use language at 10 words and the way in chich their children use language at 50 words and between certain formal properties of mothers speech at 10 words and the percentage of common nouns and unanalyzed phrases in children's early vocabularies, However, most of these relations desappear when an attempt is made to control for ossible effects of the child on the mother at Time 1. The exception is a singficant negative correlation between mothers tendency to produce speech that illustrates word boundaries and the percentage of unanalyzed phrases at 50 and 100 words. This suggests that mothers whose sprech provides the child with information about where new words begin and end tend to have children with few unanalyzed. phrases in their early vocabularies.
  • Pine, J. M., Lieven, E. V., & Rowland, C. F. (1996). Observational and checklist measures of vocabulary composition: What do they mean? Journal of Child Language, 23(3), 573-590. doi:10.1017/S0305000900008953.

    Abstract

    Observational and checklist measures of vocabulary composition have both recently been used to look at the absolute proportion of nouns in children's early vocabularies. However, they have tended to generate rather different results. The present study is an attempt to investigate the relationship between such measures in a sample of 26 children between 1;1 and 2;1 at approximately 50 and 100 words. The results show that although observational and checklist measures are significantly correlated, there are also systematic quantitative differences between them which seem to reflect a combination of checklist, maternal-report and observational sampling biases. This suggests that, although both kinds of measure may represent good indices of differences in vocabulary size and composition across children and hence be useful as dependent variables in correlational research, neither may be ideal for estimating the absolute proportion of nouns in children's vocabularies. The implication is that questions which rely on information about the absolute proportion of particular kinds of words in children's vocabularies can only be properly addressed by detailed longitudinal studies in which an attempt is made to collect more comprehensive vocabulary records for individual children.

Share this page