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The frequency, syntactic and pragmatic functions of adjectives in scripted and spontaneous child directed speech aimed at British 3 year-olds

Hull, Elinor (2018) The frequency, syntactic and pragmatic functions of adjectives in scripted and spontaneous child directed speech aimed at British 3 year-olds. University of Bath. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Children master adjectives at a later stage in development compared to other word classes (Ravid & Levie, 2010). Past research suggests that this could be due to adjectives being inherently complex (Tribushinina et al., 2013), or because adjectives are used infrequently (Sanhofer & Smith, 2000). However, a vast amount of research suggests that the Syntactic function and Pragmatic function of adjectives may also influence children’s acquisition. This study aimed to examine what in terms of exposure can explain children’s later acquisition of adjectives. Since frequency, Syntactic and Pragmatic function have an effect on learning verbs and nouns (Blackwell, 2005) and different types of speech yield different amounts of language exposure (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2017); these elements were investigated for adjectives in two different speech sources that were compared. Using a self-devised coding scheme, texts from 16 picture books and 16 transcripts of parental speech were coded for adjective use. The results showed that book text contained statistically more adjectives, attributive adjectives and descriptive adjectives, whereas parental speech contained significantly more predicative and contrastive adjectives. The findings are discussed in regards to the theories behind children’s later adjective acquisition and ideas for language interventions are introduced.

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