Studies across many languages (e.g., Dutch, English, Farsi, Spanish, Xhosa) have failed to show early acquisition of subject-verb agreement, while recent studies on French reveal acquisition by 30 months of age. Using a similar procedure as in previous French studies, the present study evaluated whether earlier comprehension of subject-verb agreement in (Mexican) Spanish can be revealed when task demands are lowered. Two experiments using a touch-screen pointing task tested comprehension of SV agreement by monolingual Spanish-speaking children growing up in Mexico City, between about 3 and 5 years of age. In Experiment 1, the auditory stimuli consisted of a transitive verb+pseudonoun object (e.g. agarra el micho ‘he throws the micho’ vs. agarran el duco ‘they throw the duco’); results failed to show early comprehension of SV agreement, replicating previous findings. In Experiment 2, the same stimuli were used, with the crucial difference that the word objeto ‘object’ replaced all pseudonouns; results revealed SV agreement comprehension as early as 41 to 50 months. Taken together, our findings show that comprehension at this age is facilitated when task demands are lowered, here by not requiring children to process pseudowords (even when these were not critical to the task). These findings hence underscore the importance of task-/stimulus-specific features when testing early morphosyntactic development, and suggest that previous results may have underestimated Spanish-speaking children’s competence.
Gonzalez-Gomez, NayeliHsin, LisaBarriere, IsabelleNazzi, ThierryLegendre, Géraldine
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health
Year of publication: 2017Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-02-22
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