Journal of Child Language



The acquisition of compound vs. phrasal stress: the role of prosodic constituents 1


IRENE  VOGEL  a1 c1 and ERIC  RAIMY  a2
a1 Department of Linguistics, University of Delaware
a2 Swarthmore College and University of Delaware

Abstract

This paper investigates the acquisition of compound vs. phrasal stress (hót dog vs. hot dóg) in English. This has previously been shown to be acquired quite late, in contrast to recent research showing that infants both perceive and prefer rhythmic patterns in their own language. Subjects (40 children in four groups the averages ages of which are 5;4, 7;2, 9;3 and 11;6 and 10 adults) were shown pairs of pictures representing a compound word and the corresponding phrase. They heard a prerecorded tape with the names of the items, and were asked to indicate which one they heard. In addition to 9 real compounds and corresponding phrases, 9 novel compounds were presented (rédcup = invented type of flower vs. red cúp). A gradual increase in overall correct scores until age twelve was found along with a significant effect of real vs. novel compounds (p < 0·001), and an overwhelming tendency for the younger children to prefer compounds regardless of stress. We conclude that the results are due to the slow development of the ability to use prosodic information to override a strong lexical bias.

(Received December 13 1999)
(Revised March 23 2001)


Correspondence:
c1 Address for correspondence: Irene Vogel, Department of Linguistics, University of Delaware, 46 East Delaware Ave., Newark DE 19716-2551, USA. e-mail: ivogel@udel.edu


Footnotes

1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the VIIIth International Congress for the Study of Child Language in San Sebastian, Spain. We are grateful to the participants of the Congress for their helpful discussion. In addition, we would like to thank two anonymous referees for their insightful comments. Address for correspondence: Irene Vogel, Department of Linguistics, University of Delaware, 46 East Delaware Ave., Newark DE 19716-2551, USA. e-mail: ivogel@udel.edu