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Compound and phrasal stress acquisition: When a greenhouse becomes different to a green house

Shilling, Hannah (2010) Compound and phrasal stress acquisition: When a greenhouse becomes different to a green house. University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This study investigated the development of compound and phrasal stress in both comprehension and production, an area somewhat neglected by previous research of linguistic stress. 55 schoolchildren aged 4, 5 and 6 completed a picture-selection comprehension task and a picture-naming production task with minimal-pairs of compounds and phrases. The accuracy of picture selections in comprehension and of stress placement in productions revealed that 4-year-olds performed better on comprehension than production, indicating that production is refined later than comprehension, whilst 5- and 6-year-olds were better at comprehending phrases than compounds but better at producing compounds than phrases. Participant responses to compound and phrasal stimuli showed a phrasal-bias across all ages in the comprehension task regardless of stimulus type, possibly due to participant unfamiliarity with some compound word stimuli. In production 4-year-olds showed no response-bias for either stimulus type, whilst 5- and 6-year-olds demonstrated a bias towards compound stress placement. However, this only reached significance for compound stimuli but not phrasal, indicating that stress placement in participants’ productions of phrases was more variable. These results demonstrate the complexities of compound and phrasal stress acquisition, and indicate that children’s stress comprehension and production abilities are not adult-like by age 6. This suggests further improvement follows later in development.

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