Toward a theory of gradual morphosyntactic learning

Matthew Rispoli, Pamela Hadley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter summarizes multiple studies from a longitudinal database of 20 children from 21 to 33 months of age. First, we describe the growth of tense/agreement morpheme productivity, revealing an age-related starting point and stable individual growth trajectories. Next, we provide evidence for a developmental sequence characterized by -3s, -ed and auxiliary DO as a block of morphemes that develop together. Evidence for cross-morpheme facilitation is also presented. Finally, we document children's sensitivity to tense marking in parent input at 21 months of age, with input informativeness accounting for a significant portion of variation in between-child growth rates. We conclude that the acquisition of the tense/agreement system is the product of gradual morphosyntactic learning and that children have an abstract tense/agreement system before age three.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExperience, Variation and Generalization
Subtitle of host publicationLearning a first language
EditorsInbal Arnon, Eve V Clark
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISBN (Electronic)9789027285041
ISBN (Print)9789027234773
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameTrends in Language Acquisition Research
ISSN (Print)1569-0644


  • Tense/agreement
  • morphosyntactic learning
  • morphosyntax


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