The Acquisition of the English Plural Morpheme by Native Mandarin Chinese-Speaking Children Although the acquisition of the English plural morpheme by monolingual English-speaking children (L1 learners) has been studied extensively, little is known about the processes through which native speakers of other languages (L2 speakers) acquire the English plural morpheme. To understand the similarities and differences between L1 and L2 English plural ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2003
The Acquisition of the English Plural Morpheme by Native Mandarin Chinese-Speaking Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Gisela Jia
    Lehman College, City University of New York
  • Contact author: Gisela Jia, PhD, Department of Psychology, Lehman College, City University of New York, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468. E-mail: giselaj@lehman.cuny.edu
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 2003
The Acquisition of the English Plural Morpheme by Native Mandarin Chinese-Speaking Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2003, Vol. 46, 1297-1311. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/101)
History: Received December 10, 2002 , Accepted April 15, 2003
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2003, Vol. 46, 1297-1311. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/101)
History: Received December 10, 2002; Accepted April 15, 2003
Web of Science® Times Cited: 30

Although the acquisition of the English plural morpheme by monolingual English-speaking children (L1 learners) has been studied extensively, little is known about the processes through which native speakers of other languages (L2 speakers) acquire the English plural morpheme. To understand the similarities and differences between L1 and L2 English plural morpheme acquisition, 10 native Mandarin-speaking children who immigrated to the United States between ages 5 and 16 years were followed for 5 years. Their proficiency in English plural morpheme production was measured by a picture description task and by their spontaneous speech. In contrast to L1 learners who master the plural morpheme within 3 years of age, only 7 of these 10 L2 learners did so after 5 years of English exposure. Age of initial exposure to English and language environment explained individual differences to some extent. Participants' speech illustrated all error types made by L1 learners; however, L2 learners more frequently marked the same noun inconsistently in the same testing session, and more often overgeneralized the plural morpheme in singular or mass noun contexts. Differences between L2 learners and L1 learners with specific language impairment are also discussed.

Acknowledgments
This research was partially funded by a Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship from New York University, a PSC-CUNY research grant (#69683-0029), and a Shuster Fellowship from Lehman College, City University of New York, as well as by a Support of Continuous Research Excellence/ National Institute of Childhood Health and Diseases grant (#41353-11-17/18) and a Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program/National Institute of Mental Health grant (#MH49747).
I express my deep appreciation to the following colleagues and students for their help with various aspects of the research reported in this article and with the preparation of this article. Cynthia Hu, Siridatar Khalsa, Angela Wang, Kim Wang, and Michael Young transcribed the interviews and coded the data. Michael Young and Bryn Borgh helped with editing the article. Gary Winkel persistently guided me through the hierarchical linear modeling analyses, through a longitudinal data analysis course I took with him, and through numerous conversations. Judith Singer offered valuable consultations about the data analysis through several e-mails. Jack Wagner conducted extensive mathematical modeling of the growth functions during some exploratory data analyses. Doris Aaronson, Richard Bock, Sandar Levey, Gary Marcus, Richard Schwartz, Yasuhiro Shirai, Grace Yeni-Komshian, and Puisan Wang read through various versions of the manuscript and offered insightful and constructive feedback on data analyses, theoretical conceptualization, and writing. Janna Oetting and Heather van der Lely pointed me to relevant references on morphological development among L1 learning children with specific language impairment. Finally, thanks are due to all the children and their parents who participated in the study.
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