Journal of Child Language


When answer-phone makes a difference in children's acquisition of English compounds

a1 University of Oxford
a2 University of Alberta

Article author query
murphy va   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
nicoladis e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Over the course of acquiring deverbal compounds like truck driver, English-speaking children pass through a stage when they produce ungrammatical compounds like drive-truck. These errors have been attributed to canonical phrasal ordering (Clark, Hecht & Mulford, 1986). In this study, we compared British and Canadian children's compound production. Both dialects have the same phrasal ordering but some different lexical items (e.g. answer-phone exists only in British English). If influenced by these lexical differences, British children would produce more ungrammatical Verb–Object (VO) compounds in trying to produce the more complex deverbal (Object–Verb-er) than the Canadian children. 36 British children between the ages of 3;6 and 5;6 and 36 age-matched Canadian children were asked to produce novel compounds (like sun juggler). The British children produced more ungrammatical compounds and fewer grammatical compounds than the Canadian children. We argue that children's errors in deverbal compounds may be due in part to competing lexical structures.

(Published Online August 21 2006)
(Received June 28 2004)
(Revised February 22 2006)

c1 Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford, OX2 6PY, UK. tel: +44 (0)1865 274042; fax: +44 (0)1865 274027; e-mail: