ERIC Number: ED207328
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Oct-12
The Acquisition of Morphology by a Bilingual Child: A Whole-Word Approach.
Vihman, Marilyn May
A delay in the acquisition of morphology by a two-year-old Estonian-speaking boy was investigated to determine the role the child's bilingualism (with English) played in the delay. In contrast to his older sister, whose exposure to English was delayed, the boy exhibited a "whole word" approach to morphology, characterized by the following: (1) learning of postpositions before suffixal inflections in Estonian, (2) use of English "has" to mark possession in Estonian, (3) consistent learning of pronominal case and other suppletive or irregular morphological forms well before use of the corresponding regular marker, and (4) long-term use of "did" plus verb as an English past tense marker. It may be argued that, for a child who must deal with two languages from the first in his daily experience, inflectional morphology is in a sense less functional than word-size morphemes, which can more easily be fitted into the structure of either language. Since some bilingual children show no apparent morphological delay, the structure of the languages in question may play a role. Alternatively, it is possible that the whole word approach is simply a part of a more general cognitive style, a view that is supported by the boy's tendency to take a whole word approach to phonology as well. Further research on a number of bilingual children is needed to validate or invalidate the possible interpretations of the data. (JB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (5th, Boston, MA, October, 1980).