Journal of Child Language

Negative input for grammatical errors: effects after a lag of 12 weeks 1

a1 Institute of Education, University of London, UK
a2 Royal Holloway University of London, UK
a3 University of Manchester, UK

Article author query
saxton m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
backley p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gallaway c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Effects of negative input for 13 categories of grammatical error were assessed in a longitudinal study of naturalistic adult–child discourse. Two-hour samples of conversational interaction were obtained at two points in time, separated by a lag of 12 weeks, for 12 children (mean age 2;0 at the start). The data were interpreted within the framework offered by Saxton's (1997, 2000) contrast theory of negative input. Corrective input was associated with subsequent improvements in the grammaticality of child speech for three of the target structures. No effects were found for two forms of positive input: non-contingent models, where the adult produces target structures in non-error-contingent contexts; and contingent models, where grammatical forms follow grammatical child usages. The findings lend support to the view that, in some cases at least, the structure of adult–child discourse yields information on the bounds of grammaticality for the language-learning child.

(Received December 11 2003)
(Revised December 6 2004)

c1 School of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, 25 Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AA, UK. fax: +44 (0)20-7612-6304, e-mail:


1 The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Economic and Social Research Council, U.K. (grant 222103). We should also like to thank Tarick Ali and Asa Bjornberg for valuable assistance with coding and reliability checks and Brian Richards for incisive comments on an earlier draft of this work. We are also grateful for the contribution of two anonymous referees.