Lexically Specified Patterns in Early Verbal Morphology in Spanish*

  • Virginia C. Mueller Gathercole
  • Eugenia Sebastián
  • Pilar Soto


Since the 1960’s, when serious investigation of child language acquisition was spurred on by both the Chomskyan revolution and the work carried out by Roger Brown and his colleagues, one issue that has been investigated extensively has been early grammatical development. This area of development has been of continual interest and investigation because it presents many of the most intractable issues surrounding language acquisition. These issues include the question of the timing and order of development across items and what controls this order; the determination of what constitutes evidence of a productive command on the part of the child; the question of the scope of the child’s categories and rules; and the nature of children’s errors and what they may reveal about the child’s knowledge. All of these issues are, of course, intimately related. Recent research in this area has suggested that, for English-speaking children at least, the earliest steps to grammatical development consist of acquiring piecemeal knowledge, and that children’s productive command of the language is restricted to limited-scope, lexically specified patterns or rules. Children learning inflectional languages, in contrast, are often reported to achieve a productive command of morphological paradigms earlier than English-speaking children, even as early as two years of age. This investigation seeks to contribute to the question of children’s early grammatical knowledge by examining the early use of verb forms in Spanish-speaking children.


Past Participle Grammatical Development Person Plural Present Participle Inflectional Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Behrend, Douglas A. (1994) Review of M. Tomasello, First verbs: a case study of early grammatical development. Cambridge: CUP, 1992. Journal of Child Language, 21, 748–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bloom, L., Lifter, K., & Hafitz, J. (1980) Semantics of the verbs and the development of verb inflection in child language. Language, 56, 366–412.Google Scholar
  3. Braine, Martin D.S. (1976) Children’s first word combinations. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, vol. 41.Google Scholar
  4. Caselli, M. Cristina, Leonard, Laurence B., Volterra, Virginia, & Campagnoli, M. Grazia. (1993) Toward mastery of Italian morphology: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Child Language, 20, 377–393.Google Scholar
  5. Cortés, Montserrat. (1989) Temps i aspecte: Com els infants aprenen a parlar del passat. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universitat de Barcelona.Google Scholar
  6. Eisenberg, Ann. (1985) Learning to describe past experiences in conversation. Discourse Processes, 8, 177–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ezeizabarrena, Maria Jose. (1997) Morfemas de concordancia con el sujeto y con los objetos en el castellano infantil. In A.T. Pérez-Leroux, & W.R. Glass (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on the acquisition of Spanish, Vol. 1: Developing grammars (pp. 21–36). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fernández Martinez, Almudena. (1994) El aprendizaje de los morfemas verbales: Datos de un estudio longitudinal. in Susana López Ornat, Almudena Fernández, Pilar Gallo, & Sonia Mariscal (Eds.), La adquisición de la lengua espaiiola (pp. 29–46). Madrid: Siglo XXI de España Editores.Google Scholar
  9. Gathercole, Virginia C. Mueller, Sebastián, Eugenia, & Soto, Pilar. (1999) The early acquisition of Spanish verbal morphology: Across-the-board or piecemeal knowledge? International Journal of Bilingualism, 3, 133–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hernández Pina, Fuensanta. (1984) Teorías psico-sociolingüísticas y su aplicación a la adquisición del espaitol como lengua materna. Madrid: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S.A.Google Scholar
  11. Hyams, N.M. (1992) Morphosyntactic development in Italian and its relevance to parameter-setting models:Comments on the paper by Pizzuto and Caselli. Journal of Child Language, 19, 695–709PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jacobsen, Teresa. (1986) Aspecto antes que tiempo? Una mirada a la adquisición temprana del español. In J.Meisel (Ed.), Adquisición del lenguajelAquisiçao da linguagem. Frankfurt: Vervuert.Google Scholar
  13. Lieven, Elena V.M., Pine, Julian M., & Baldwin, Gillian. (1997) Lexically-based learning and early grammatical development. Journal of Child Language, 24, 187–219.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lleó, Conxita. (1996) To spread or not to spread: Different styles in the acquisition of Spanish phonology. In Barbara Bernhardt, John Gilbert, & David Ingram (Eds.), Proceedings of the UBC International Conjèence on Phonological Acquisition (pp. 215–228). Somerville: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lleó, Conxita. (1997) Proto-articles in the acquisition of Spanish.- Interface between phonology and morphology. Paper presented at GALA, 1997.Google Scholar
  16. Lleó, Conxita, Prinz, Michael, Mogharbel, Christliebe, & Maldonado, Antonio. (1996) Early phonological acquisition of German and Spanish: A reinterpretation of the continuity issue within the principles and parameters model. In Carolyn E. Johnson, & John H.V. Gilbert (Eds.), Children’s language, vol. 9. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum. 11–31.Google Scholar
  17. Maratsos, M. (1998) The acquisition of grammar. In William Damon (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 2: Cognition, perception, and language (D. Kuhn, & R.S. Siegler, vol. eds.). N.Y.: Wiley. 421–466.Google Scholar
  18. Maratsos, M. (in press) Some aspects of innateness and complexity in grammatical acquisition. In M. Barrett (Ed.), The development of language. Hore, East Sussex: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  19. Pine, Julian M., & Lieven, Elena V.M. (1993) Reanalysing rote-learned phrases: Individual differences in the transition to multi-word speech. Journal of Child Language, 20, 551–571.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Pine, Julian M., & Lieven, Elena V.M. (1997) Slot and frame patterns and the development of the determiner category. Applied P.sycholinguistics, 18, 123–138.Google Scholar
  21. Pine, Julian M., Lieven, Elena V.M., & Rowland, Caroline F. (1997) Comparing different models of the development of the English verb category. Linguistics. Google Scholar
  22. Pizzuto, E., & Caselli, M.C. (1992) The acquisition of Italian morphology: Implications for models of language development. Journal of Child Language, 19, 491–557.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pizzuto, Elena, & Caselli, Maria Cristina. (1993) The acquisition of Italian morphology: A reply to Hyams. Journal of Child Language, 20, 707–712.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pizzuto, Elena, & Caselli, Maria Cristina. (1994) The acquisition of Italian verb morphology in a cross-linguistic perspective. In Yonata Levy (Ed.), Other children, other languages: Issues in the theory of language acquisition (pp. 137–187). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Plunkett, K. (1993) Lexical segmentation and vocabulary growth in early language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 20, 43–60.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shirai, Yasuhiro, & Andersen, Roger W. (1995) The acquisition of tense-aspect morphology: A prototype account. Language, 71, 743–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tomasello, Michael. (1992) First verbs: A case study of early grammatical development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia C. Mueller Gathercole
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eugenia Sebastián
    • 3
  • Pilar Soto
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Wales BangorUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of Wales BangorBangorCentral African Republic
  3. 3.Universidad Autónoma de MadridUSA

Personalised recommendations