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)

Morphemes Age of Acquisition in Months Examples
1.  Present Progressive 19 – 28 I eating
2&3.  Prepositions in, on 27 – 30 Ball in box, car on table
4.  Plural – s 24 – 33 Toys
5.  Irregular Past Tense 25 – 46 Ate, ran
6.  Possessive – s 26 – 40 Kayla’s doll
7.  Uncontractible Copula – is 27 – 39 This is cold
8.  Articles – a, the 28 – 46 This is a car, put in the box
9.  Regular Past Tense – ed 26 – 48 He jumped
10.  3rd Person Present Tense – s (regular) 26 – 46 She dances
11.  3rd Person Present Tense (irregular) 28 – 50 He does not
12. Uncontracible Auxiliary 29 – 49 Kayla is dancing
13. Contractible Copula – ‘s 29 – 49 She’s nice
14.  Contractible Auxiliary – ‘s 30 – 50 She’s dancing

Stages Of Development

Stages Age in Months Declarative Negative Interrogative Conjoining Embedding
Early I 12 – 22 Agent + Action;Action + Object Single word; negative + X (i.e. no, all gone, gone) Yes/no asked with raising intonation on a single word; what and where Serial naming without and
Late I 27 – 28 Subject + Verb + Object appear No and not used interchangeably That + X; what + noun phrase + (doing)? Prepositions in and on appear
Early II 27 – 28 Subject + Copula + Compl. Appears Where + noun phrase + (going)?
Late II 28 – 30 Basic subject – verb – object used by most children No, not, don’t, and can’t used interchangeably What or where + subj. + pred. Earliest inversion appears Gonna, wanna, gotta, etc., appear
Early III 31 – 32 Subj. + aux. + verb + obj. appears; auxiliary verb forms can, do, have, will and be appear Negative element placed between subject and predicate With copula in what/where + copula + subj. But, so, or, and if appear
Late III 33 – 34 Auxiliary verb appears with copula in subj. + aux. + copula + X Won’t appears Auxiliary verbs do, can, and will begin to appear in questions; inversion of subj. and auxiliary verb appears in yes/no questions
Early IV 35 – 37 Negative appears with auxiliary verbs (subj. + aux. + neg. + verb) Inversion of auxiliary verb and subj. in WH- questions Object noun-phrase complements appear with verbs such as think, guess, and show; embedded; WH questions Clausal conjoining with and appears (most children cannot produce this form until late sate V); because appears
Late IV 38 – 40 Double auxiliary verbs appear in subj. + aux. + aux. + verb + X Adds isn’t, aren’t, doesn’t, and didn’t Inversion of copula and subj. in yes/no questions; adds do to yes/no questions; adds when and how Infinitive phrases appear at the ends of sentences
V 41 – 46 Indirect 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 appear Clausal conjoining with if appears; three-clause declaratives appear Relative clauses appear in object position; multiple embeddings appear by late stage V; infinitive phrases with same subject as the main verb
Post V 47 + Adds indefinite forms nobody, no one, none, and nothing; has difficulty with double negatives Questions other than one-word why questions appear; negative interrogatives beyond age 5 Clausal 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 5.0 Gerunds appear; relative clauses attached to the subject; embedding and conjoining appear within same sentence above an MLU of 5.0