A corpus based study of first language acquisition of degree adverbs
(2016) A corpus based study of first language acquisition of degree adverbs, no. 39.
Research by Tribushinina and Dubinkina (2012) and Marshall and Van der Lely (2007) indicates that degree markers, including degree adverbs, may be an area of difficulty for children with Speech Language Impairment. This study investigates the acquisition of degree adverbs in English speaking children. Two corpora from the Child Language Exchange System (MacWhinney 2000) were used to investigate degree adverb use in the speech of children up to 7 years in both a structured and naturalistic setting. There was a small relative frequency of degree adverbs but the results showed that children use degree adverbs before 2;0. Their use increases with age, with the rate of increase slowing down between 5 and 7 years. The majority of degree adverbs were used correctly but errors with degree modification were present at 7 years, highlighting the length of the acquisition period. The overlapping age group of the two corpora revealed a greater number of degree adverbs produced during the unstructured setting. Scalar modifiers were the most frequently used type of degree adverb. Future research using experimental means is needed to support these results about the order and timing of acquisition of degree adverbs, including information about comprehension. Research on degree adverb use by English speaking children with Specific Language Impairment is also required.