Ages & Stages of Language Acquisition

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Language Acquisition According to Brown

What are morphemes?

Morphemes are the smallest units of sound or combination of sounds that make up words in speech and have meaning.  There are many different types of morphemes.  Morphemes at times are mistaken for words or syllables, howver, this is not correct.  Morphemes are either a base or an affix (affix can be a prefix or a suffix).  An affix cannot stand alone, whereas a base can.  Prefix comes at the beginning of the word, while a suffix comes at the end, both fall under the category of affix.  A base is a morpheme that gives a word meaning, in other words, it’s the actual word itself.  There are morphemes tha can stand alone and these are called “free morphemes,” whereas those morphmees that cannot stand alone are called “bound morphemes.”  Inflectional morphemes are those that can only be a suffix, whereas derivational morphemes change the meaning of the word, part of the speech or both.  Some other types of morphemes are: allomorphs (variation of a morpheme where the sound pronounced is different than the letter written), homonyms (morphemes taht are spelled the same with different meanings), and homophones (morphemes that sound alike with different meanings and spellings).

Examples of different types of morphemes:

  1. Base: cat, dog, potato, chair, etc.
  2. Prefix: the in in “inspect,” un in “unhappy.”
  3. Suffix: the s in “cats,” ed in “barked.”
  4. Free morpheme: cat can stand on its own and it carries a meaning.
  5. Bound morpheme: “s” without a word attachment such as “cats.”
  6. Inflectional morpheme: English language has 7 inflectional morphemes creating a change in the function of the word; past tense -ed, plural -s, possessive -s, third person singular, past participle -en, present participle -ing (all are verb inflections), comparative -er and superlative -est are adjective and adverb inflections.
  7. Derivational morphemes: theses often create new words; such as un in “unhappy.”
  8. Allomorphs: such as final -s in the words dogs, cats, zebras (all are /s/ but are pronounced as a /z/).
  9. Homonyms: bear (animal) vs. Bear (to carry), bank (the river), vs. Bank (place to deposit money).
  10. Homophones: bear vs bare, break vs brake, cite vs sight vs. site, bye vs buy.

The Age Of Acquisition Order For Grammatical Morphemes (Early Years 3-5)

MorphemesAge of Acquisition in MonthsExamples
1.  Present Progressive19 – 28I eating
2&3.  Prepositions in, on27 – 30Ball in box, car on table
4.  Plural – s24 – 33Toys
5.  Irregular Past Tense25 – 46Ate, ran
6.  Possessive – s26 – 40Kayla’s doll
7.  Uncontractible Copula – is27 – 39This is cold
8.  Articles – a, the28 – 46This is a car, put in the box
9.  Regular Past Tense – ed26 – 48He jumped
10.  3rd Person Present Tense – s (regular)26 – 46She dances
11.  3rd Person Present Tense (irregular)28 – 50He does not
12. Uncontracible Auxiliary29 – 49Kayla is dancing
13. Contractible Copula – ‘s29 – 49She’s nice
14.  Contractible Auxiliary – ‘s30 – 50She’s dancing

Stages Of Development

StagesAge in MonthsDeclarativeNegativeInterrogativeConjoiningEmbedding
Early I12 – 22Agent + Action;Action + ObjectSingle word; negative + X (i.e. no, all gone, gone)Yes/no asked with raising intonation on a single word; what and whereSerial naming without and
Late I27 – 28Subject + Verb + Object appearNo and not used interchangeablyThat + X; what + noun phrase + (doing)?Prepositions in and on appear
Early II27 – 28Subject + Copula + Compl. AppearsWhere + noun phrase + (going)?
Late II28 – 30Basic subject – verb – object used by most childrenNo, not, don’t, and can’t used interchangeablyWhat or where + subj. + pred. Earliest inversion appearsGonna, wanna, gotta, etc., appear
Early III31 – 32Subj. + aux. + verb + obj. appears; auxiliary verb forms can, do, have, will and be appearNegative element placed between subject and predicateWith copula in what/where + copula + subj.But, so, or, and if appear
Late III33 – 34Auxiliary verb appears with copula in subj. + aux. + copula + XWon’t appearsAuxiliary verbs do, can, and will begin to appear in questions; inversion of subj. and auxiliary verb appears in yes/no questions
Early IV35 – 37Negative appears with auxiliary verbs (subj. + aux. + neg. + verb)Inversion of auxiliary verb and subj. in WH- questionsObject noun-phrase complements appear with verbs such as think, guess, and show; embedded; WH questionsClausal conjoining with and appears (most children cannot produce this form until late sate V); because appears
Late IV38 – 40Double auxiliary verbs appear in subj. + aux. + aux. + verb + XAdds isn’t, aren’t, doesn’t, and didn’tInversion of copula and subj. in yes/no questions; adds do to yes/no questions; adds when and howInfinitive phrases appear at the ends of sentences
V41 – 46Indirect object appears in subj. + aux. + verb + ind. Obj. + obj.Adds wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t; negative appears with copula in subj. + copula + neg.Adds modals; stabilizes inverted auxiliary; some adult-like tag questions appearClausal conjoining with if appears; three-clause declaratives appearRelative clauses appear in object position; multiple embeddings appear by late stage V; infinitive phrases with same subject as the main verb
Post V47 +Adds indefinite forms nobody, no one, none, and nothing; has difficulty with double negativesQuestions other than one-word why questions appear; negative interrogatives beyond age 5Clausal conjoining with because appears with when, but, and so beyond an MLU of 5.0; embedding and conjoining appear within the same sentence above an MLU of 5.0Gerunds appear; relative clauses attached to the subject; embedding and conjoining appear within same sentence above an MLU of 5.0