Acquisition of English Grammatical Morphology by Native Mandarin-Speaking Children and Adolescents: Age-Related Differences Purpose This 5-year longitudinal study investigated the acquisition of 6 English grammatical morphemes (i.e., regular and irregular past tense, 3rd person singular, progressive aspect –ing, copula BE, and auxiliary DO) by 10 native Mandarin-speaking children and adolescents in the United States (arrived in the United States between 5 and 16 ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2007
Acquisition of English Grammatical Morphology by Native Mandarin-Speaking Children and Adolescents: Age-Related Differences
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Gisela Jia
    Lehman College, The City University of New York
  • Akiko Fuse
    Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, The City University of New York
  • Contact author: Gisela Jia, Department of Psychology, Lehman College, City University of New York, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468. E-mail: giselajia@yahoo.com.
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2007
Acquisition of English Grammatical Morphology by Native Mandarin-Speaking Children and Adolescents: Age-Related Differences
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2007, Vol. 50, 1280-1299. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/090)
History: Received March 15, 2006 , Revised July 24, 2006 , Accepted January 24, 2007
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2007, Vol. 50, 1280-1299. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/090)
History: Received March 15, 2006; Revised July 24, 2006; Accepted January 24, 2007
Web of Science® Times Cited: 57

Purpose This 5-year longitudinal study investigated the acquisition of 6 English grammatical morphemes (i.e., regular and irregular past tense, 3rd person singular, progressive aspect –ing, copula BE, and auxiliary DO) by 10 native Mandarin-speaking children and adolescents in the United States (arrived in the United States between 5 and 16 years of age). The goals were to chart and compare the acquisition trajectories and levels of mastery across the morphemes, identify when age-related differences emerged and which forms they took.

Method Morphological proficiency was measured by the accuracy of these morphemes in obligatory contexts during spontaneous speech.

Results The morphemes were mastered by different numbers of participants and showed different growth trajectories. Performance variance was partially predicted by age of arrival (AoAr) in the United States, with early arrivals achieving greater proficiency than late arrivals. However, such AoAr effects took several years to occur and only existed for 2 of the 6 morphemes (i.e., 3rd person singular and regular past tense). Growth curve analysis revealed that language environment was a stronger predictor of individual differences than AoAr. Results did not uncover age-related differences in the acquisition of tense versus non-tense-related morphemes, nor in regular versus irregular morphemes, nor in the error types.

Conclusion Findings support an Environmental account for age-related differences in 2nd language (L2) morphological acquisition. Results also indicate that the acquisition of some grammatical morphemes by school-aged immigrants takes several years to complete. As L2 learners exhibit some error types and difficulties similar to monolingual children with specific language impairment, caution needs to be taken when interpreting and using morphological errors as indicators of speech/language learning problems in this population.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by Support of Continuous Research Excellence/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant 41353-11-19/20/21 to the first author. We thank the following students for transcribing and coding the data: Cynthia Hu, Siridatar Khalsar, Angela Wang, Kim Wang, and Michael Young. Gary Winkel guided us through the longitudinal data analysis. We also thank Keith Happeny, Jennifer Chen, Cody Merville, and Jason Greene for reading drafts of this article. Finally, thanks are due to all the children and their parents who participated in the study.
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