Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Relationship between Early Lexical and Grammatical Development in Spanish: Evidence in Children with Different Linguistic Levels

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Relationship between Early Lexical and Grammatical Development in Spanish: Evidence in Children with Different Linguistic Levels

Article excerpt

This study analyzes the relationship between lexical and grammatical development in Spanish children. The (European) Spanish version of the MacArthur-Bates CDI was used and administered to 593 Spanish-speaking children between the ages of 16 and 30-months-old. Regression analysis was applied to evaluate the relationship between age, vocabulary (total vocabulary, nouns, and verbs) and grammatical scores on two subsections of the Grammar Part. Total vocabulary explained a significantly greater proportion of variance in grammatical outcomes than age did. However, noun and verb vocabularies did not explain a greater proportion of variance in their respective morphologies than total vocabulary did. Additionally, the predictive relationship between vocabulary and grammar was found to be weaker for children whose scores were below the 10th percentile, although this could be due to the minor variability in this group and to extreme cases. We discuss the implications of these results in relation to the question of continuity between early vocabulary and grammar development in children.

Keywords: lexical-grammatical relationship, Spanish language acquisition, MacArthur-Bates Inventories, late talkers.

En este estudio se analiza la relación entre el desarrollo léxico y gramatical en niños españoles. La versión española de los Inventarios MacArthur-Bates fue administrada a 593 niños de 16 a 30 meses de edad. Se aplicaron análisis de regresión para evaluar la relación entre la edad, el vocabulario (total, nominal y verbal) y las puntuaciones en dos sub-secciones del apartado gramatical. El vocabulario total explica una proporción significativamente mayor de la varianza de las puntuaciones gramaticales que la edad. Sin embargo, los vocabularios parciales, nominal y verbal, no explican proporciones significativamente mayores de la varianza de sus puntuaciones en morfología, que la edad. Por otro lado, la capacidad de predicción del vocabulario sobre la gramática resulta menor en los niños cuyas puntuaciones los sitúan por debajo del percentil 10; sin embargo, este resultado puede atribuirse a la menor variabilidad y a casos extremos hallados en este grupo. Se discuten las implicaciones de todo este conjunto de resultados en relación a la hipótesis de continuidad entre el vocabulario y la gramática en el desarrollo temprano.

Palabras clave: relación léxico-gramática, adquisición de la lengua española, Inventarios MacArthur-Bates, hablantes tardíos.

During the last decade, a growing body of research has provided evidence that there is continuity between linguistic milestones: from babbling to first words to grammar. Focusing on the transition from early vocabulary to grammar, different studies have assumed that early lexical development not only occurs prior to, but is actually a prerequisite for the emergence of morphosyntactic constructions (Bates, Bretherton, & Snyder, 1988; Bates & Goodman, 1997; Bates et al., 1994; Marchman & Bates, 1994). Such an assumption not only challenges the linguistic hypothesis of the independence and superiority of syntax (i.e., the Chomskian view), but it is also posits a continuous view of the process of language acquisition.

The vast majority of studies to date have dealt with the issue of lexical and grammatical development and how they relate in the case of normally developing children (ND). Very few have explored this matter in children with late language emergence or language disorders (e.g., Lyytinen & Lyytinen, 2004; Moyle, Weismer, Evans, & Lindstrom, 2007; Windfuhr, Faragher, & Conti-Ramsden, 2002). Furthermore, research aimed at exploring the interdependency of lexical and morphosyntactic development, both in ND and late-talking children, has been conducted mainly in English. Only a few studies have been published on languages that have rich morphological systems (see for example, Bassano, 2000; Casselli, Casadio, & Bates, 1999; Devescovi et al. …

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