The Role of Utterance Length and Position in 3-Year-Olds' Production of Third Person Singular -s PurposeEvidence from children's spontaneous speech suggests that utterance length and utterance position may help explain why children omit grammatical morphemes in some contexts but not others. This study investigated whether increased utterance length (hence, increased grammatical complexity) adversely affects children's third person singular -s production in more controlled experimental conditions.MethodAn ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2014
The Role of Utterance Length and Position in 3-Year-Olds' Production of Third Person Singular -s
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kiri T. Mealings
    Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • Katherine Demuth
    Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • Disclosure:The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication
    Disclosure:The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication×
  • Correspondence to Kiri T. Mealings: kiri.mealings@students.mq.edu.au
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Jessica Barlow
    Associate Editor: Jessica Barlow×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Voice Disorders / Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Research Article   |   April 01, 2014
The Role of Utterance Length and Position in 3-Year-Olds' Production of Third Person Singular -s
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2014, Vol. 57, 484-494. doi:10.1044/2013_JSLHR-L-12-0354
History: Received November 7, 2012 , Revised March 15, 2013 , Accepted June 28, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2014, Vol. 57, 484-494. doi:10.1044/2013_JSLHR-L-12-0354
History: Received November 7, 2012; Revised March 15, 2013; Accepted June 28, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 2

PurposeEvidence from children's spontaneous speech suggests that utterance length and utterance position may help explain why children omit grammatical morphemes in some contexts but not others. This study investigated whether increased utterance length (hence, increased grammatical complexity) adversely affects children's third person singular -s production in more controlled experimental conditions.

MethodAn elicited imitation task with 12 Australian English–speaking children ages 2;9 (years;months) to 3;2 (Mage = 2;11) was conducted comparing third person singular -s production in 3-word and 5-word utterances, both utterance medially (e.g., He sits back; He sits back and swings) and utterance finally (e.g., There he sits; That's the way he sits) using a within-subjects design. Children were shown pictorial representations of each utterance on a computer and were invited to repeat 16 pseudorandomized prerecorded utterances. Acoustic analysis determined the presence/absence and duration of the third person singular morpheme.

ResultsThird person singular production was significantly lower utterance medially compared to utterance finally for the 5-word utterances and significantly lower utterance medially in the 5-word compared to 3-word utterances.

ConclusionThese results suggest that increased utterance length results in significantly lower third person singular production, but only in the more articulatorily challenging utterance-medial position. Thus, morpheme omission is greatest at the intersection of grammatical and phonological complexity.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported, in part, by funding from Australian Research Council (ARC) Grants ARC DP110102479 (awarded to Felicity Cox) and ARC CE110001021 (awarded to Crain et al.), as well as funding from National Institutes of Health Grant R01HD057606 (awarded to Katherine Demuth and Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel). We thank Ben Davies, Susan Lin, Gretel Macdonald, Kelly Miles, Nan Xu, Ivan Yuen, and the Child Language Lab at Macquarie University for helpful assistance and feedback.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access