Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 335–350 | Cite as

Noun Imageability Facilitates the Acquisition of Plurals: Survival Analysis of Plural Emergence in Children

  • Filip Smolík


Some research in child language suggests that semantically general verbs appear in grammatical structures earlier than semantically complex, specific ones. The present study examines whether this was the case in nouns, using imageability as a proxy measure of semantic generality. Longitudinal corpus data from 12 children from the Manchester corpus in CHILDES were used to obtain information on the first occurrence of plurals. A total of 3,560 uninflected nouns were identified in the corpora, of which 1,202 were observed in the plural. Survival analyses indicated that the chance of observing a plural form increases with the imageability rating of the noun, even after accounting for the age of acquisition of the uninflected noun, maternal input frequency, and word length. Noun imageability thus facilitates the acquisition of plural forms. This finding contradicts the observations from verbs, and indicates that the acquisition of grammar is facilitated by high imageability rather than semantic generality.


Language acquisition Imageability Morphology  Plural  Acquisition of inflections Semantic generality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychologický ústav AV ČRPraha 1Czech Republic

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