Cue reliability, salience and early comprehension of agreement: Evidence from Greek

Panagiotis Kenanidis, Vasiliki Chondrogianni, Géraldine Legendre, Jennifer Culbertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies have argued that two morphophonological properties–perceptual salience and cue reliability–can explain cross-linguistic differences in early comprehension of verbal agreement. Children acquiring a language with high salience and reliability markers (French) showed much earlier comprehension than children acquiring markers with lower salience and reliability (English and Spanish; Legendre et al., 2014). Here we tested this hypothesis further by investigating early comprehension in Greek, where markers have high salience and reliability (compared to Spanish and English) predicting early comprehension, as in French. We investigated two and three-year-old Greek-speaking children’s ability to distinguish third person singular and plural agreement in a picture-selection task. We also examined the frequency of these morphemes in child-directed speech to address input effects. Results showed that three-year-olds are sensitive to both singular and plural agreement, earlier than children acquiring English and Spanish, but later than French, and despite singular agreement being more frequent than plural agreement in the child corpus. These findings provide further support for the role of salience and reliability during early acquisition, while highlighting a potential effect of morpheme position.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalJournal of Child Language
Early online date20 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • cue reliability
  • Greek
  • languge comprehension
  • perceptual salience
  • subject-verb
  • verbal agreement

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