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Child’s Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2021

Abstract

The paper provides the morphologic and syntactic analysis conducted on the basis of two videos with Child X. The first video was recorded when the girl was two years and nine months old, and the second one was made when she was nine months older. The results of the analysis show that the girl meets the standards expected for her age. Her MLU levels are 2.325 and 3.57, which refer to II and IV developmental stages of Brown’s scale respectively.

The analysis of fourteen Brown’s grammatical morphemes shows that Child X is between IV and V stages. The longest utterance in the first video has five morphemes in it, and the longest one in the second video contains fourteen morphemes. Although particular girl’s sentences sound funny because of involuntary repetitions, the developmental level expected for her age has already been reached.

Morphologic Analysis

The Child’s Mean Length of Utterance

The following table presents calculations for the first transcript:

Utterance Morphemes Utterance Morphemes Utterance Morphemes
1 4 16 3 31 1
2 1 17 2 32 1
3 1 18 1 33 5
4 1 19 2 34 1
5 1 20 3 35 5
6 3 21 2 36 5
7 1 22 3 37 1
8 4 23 3 38 2
9 2 24 5 39 2
10 3 25 3 40 1
11 1 26 1
12 3 27 2
13 1 28 3
14 3 29 3
15 3 30 1

MNU for the first transcript is 93/40, which is approximately 2.325.

The table above contains the calculations for the second transcript:

Utterance Morphemes Utterance Morphemes Utterance Morphemes
1 1 23 3 45 1
2 5 24 4 46 4
3 5 25 3 47 1
4 4 26 5 48 1
5 2 27 5 49 4
6 4 28 6 50 1
7 5 29 3 51 5
8 1 30 1 52 11
9 2 31 4 53 10
10 4 32 6 54 9
11 2 33 1 55 8
12 8 34 1 56 1
13 1 35 2 57 3
14 6 36 9 58 1
15 3 37 1 59 1
16 4 38 11 60 1
17 1 39 1 61 5
18 4 40 14 62 1
19 3 41 3 63 1
20 5 42 1 64 2
21 1 43 4 65 1
22 1 44 1 66 6

MNU for the second transcript: 236/66 ≈ 3.57.

The number of utterances is bigger in the second transcript, and they are longer in general. In the first video, Child X is 33 months old, and according to the interpretation of MLU, her value should be between 2.5 and 3.0. In reality, it is a bit less. In the second video, Child X is 42 months old, and MLU should be approximately 3.75-4.5. Again, the calculated value is a bit less. However, the deviation is minor, and MLU still should be considered normal.

Brown’s 14 Morphemes

Morpheme 2 Years and 9 Months 3 Years and 6 Months
1 Present progressive –ing Mommy getting really mad. It’s just driving somewhere.
2 In(preposition) Can I put it in?
We need to put some milk in it.
Can I pour it in there?
3 On(preposition) Stand on here.
We can’t seat on it like Tyler.
4 Regular plural -s Eyes.
Ears.
5 Irregular past I did it.
I done!
I saw a puzzle.
My daddy said I can’t sit here.
My daddy said I can’t stand on here.
6 Possessive -‘s And this is daddy’s That’s Kristen’s?
7 Uncontractible copula It is. (Child’s response to “It’s still drippy”)
8 Articles I have a mouth.
He needs a mouth.
Tyler a baby.
I saw a puzzle.
I see a truck.
When I a baby/ I don’t/ I cant eat/ um/ cake anymore.
You eat a little bit of cake and that’s it.
9 Regular past -ed
10 Regular third person -s He needs a mouth. It smells pretty good.
It smells like chocolate.
11 Irregular third person
12 Uncontractible auxiliary Yes it is. (Child’s response to “It’s looking very good”).
13 Contractible copula It’s not open.
It’s thick.
It’s till drippy.
That’s pudding?
I’m two.
It’s Mia.
That’s enough.
And that’s it?
Because it’s not thick yet.
You eat a little bit of cake and that’s it.
It’s thicker and thicker but it’s not thicker.
Now it’s thick.
That’s Kristen’s?
14 Contractible auxiliary I’m gonna sit.
It’s just driving somewhere.
Kristen is be right back.

At the age of two years and nine months, Child X already uses the majority of Brown’s 14 grammatical morphemes. Only six of them are not used: regular past, irregular third person, both of the prepositions, contractible and uncontractible auxiliary. At the age of three years and six months, Child X has learned the prepositions (both in and on), contractible and uncontractible auxiliary. Regular plural and uncontractible copula, which have already been used by the girl in the first video, are not present in the second. However, that is of minor importance since they have already been learned. So, at the age of three years and six months, the girl does not use only two Brown’s morphemes: irregular third person and past regular tense.

Other Grammatical Morphemes

Apart from Brown’s 14 grammatical morphemes, Child X uses some others. There are conjunctions – the word and in both of the transcripts: “Mommy and Daddy”, “Face and nose”, “It’s thicker and thicker” (2 year, 9 month-old Mia making pudding, 2014; 3 year, 6 month-old Mia making pudding, 2014). In the second transcript, comparatives are also used: “It’s thicker and thicker” (3 year, 6 month-old Mia making pudding, 2014). Additionally, in the second video, Child X also shows knowledge of modal verbs, particularly the word can: “I can open it”, “Can’t do it” (3 year, 6 month-old Mia making pudding, 2014).

Benefits and Limitations of Using Brown’s 14 Morphemes to Analyze the Level of Child’s Development

Brown’s list consists of the morphemes of varying complexity. Thus, every child learns them in more or less similar order, which lets us connect the number and type of acquired morphemes to a particular developmental stage. Besides, Brown’s morphemes are linked to MLU: the higher MLU, the more morphemes a kid uses. When child’s MLU exceeds 4.5, he or she already knows all fourteen Brown’s morphemes.

However, this method of analyzing the child’s development has several limitations. The most significant one is that the analysis is made using transcripts of a limited number of utterances. Hence, a child can already know a particular morpheme but still not use it in a given transcript (as it has happened with regular plural and uncontractible copula in the second Child X’s video). Another significant drawback of Brown’s method is that the list does not contain all grammatical morphemes. As it can be seen, Child X has acquired some morphemes that are not on the list.

Syntactic Development Analysis

Developmental Stage

At the age of two years and nine months, the girl’s MNU is approximately 2.325, which refers to the morphological development phase (II), according to the list of Brown’s developmental stages. At the age of three years and six months, the girl is at the stage of embedding of sentence elements (IV) since her MNU is 3.57. However, considering the analysis of the use of fourteen morphemes, the girl’s development level is a bit higher, between IV and V stages.

Distributional Analysis

The following table presents the number of utterances per morpheme length for both videos. The most common sentence length in terms of morphemes is one in each case.

Morpheme Length The Number of Utterances in the First Video The Number of Utterances in the Second Video
1 15 24
2 7 5
3 12 7
4 2 10
5 4 8
6 0 4
7 0 0
8 0 2
9 0 2
10 0 1
11 0 2
12 0 0
13 0 0
14 0 1

The Child’s Ten Longest Utterances

The longest utterances of the first video:

  1. Mommy getting really mad.
  2. Yeah, I have a mouth.
  3. And this is daddy’s.
  4. He needs a mouth.
  5. It’s not open?
  6. It’s still drippy.
  7. It’s thick.
  8. I hold that.
  9. I did it!
  10. I stand up.

The longest utterances of the second video:

  1. Look, it’s thicker and thicker but it’s not thicker.
  2. You eat a little bit of cake and that’s it.
  3. And my daddy cant/ um/ daddy cant/ my daddy said I cant/ um/ I cant/ um/ sit here/.
  4. No/ I/ My daddy said I cant/ Um/ Stand on here.
  5. When I a baby/ I don’t/ I cant eat/um/ cake anymore.
  6. Yeah we can’t sit on it like Tyler.
  7. We need to put some milk in it.
  8. Or you can’t do it like this.
  9. Can I pour it in there?
  10. Because it’s not thick yet.

The utterances above support Brown’s developmental stage theory: in the first video, the girl only starts to use the basic morphemes while in the second one she already tries to build sentences. However, some of them still sound funny because of grammatical errors and involuntary repetitions.

Conclusions

To conclude, both morphologic and syntactic analysis of the child’s speech have been conducted in the paper. The morphologic analysis focuses on such aspects as the mean length of utterances (MLU) and Brown’s fourteen morphemes. The girl’s MLU in the first video is approximately 2.325 and in the second one is 3.57, which, according to the Brown’s scale of developmental stages, refer to the morphological development phase (II) and the phase of embedding of sentence elements (IV) respectively.

At the same time, the analysis based on the fourteen grammatical morphemes shows that Child X is on a bit higher level of development, specifically between IV and V stages. The syntactic analysis reveals that the longest utterance in the first case consists of only five morphemes while the longest one in the second case has fourteen of them already. Although some of the girl’s sentences are funny because of grammatical mistakes or involuntary repetitions, the development expected for her age is evident.

References

2 year, 9 month-old Mia making pudding Session #1 (10/25/09) (2014). Web.

3 year, 6 month-old Mia making pudding Session #2 (7/30/10) (2014). Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, March 30). Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/childs-speech-morphologic-and-syntactic-analysis/

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"Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis." IvyPanda, 30 Mar. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/childs-speech-morphologic-and-syntactic-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda. "Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis." March 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/childs-speech-morphologic-and-syntactic-analysis/.


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IvyPanda. "Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis." March 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/childs-speech-morphologic-and-syntactic-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis." March 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/childs-speech-morphologic-and-syntactic-analysis/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Child's Speech: Morphologic and Syntactic Analysis'. 30 March.

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