Function Morphemes in Young Children's Speech Perception and Production

Lou Ann Gerken, Barbara Landau, Robert E. Remez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Function morphemes or functors (e.g., articles and verb inflections) potentially provide children with cues for segmenting speech into constituents, as well as for labeling these constituents (e.g., noun phrase [NP] and verb phrase [VP]). However, the fact that young children often fail to produce functors may indicate that they ignore these cues in early language acquisition. Alternatively, children may be sensitive to functors in perception, but omit them in production. In 3 experiments, 2-year-olds imitated sentences that contained English or non-English functors and that were controlled for both suprasegmental and segmental factors. Children omitted English functors more frequently than non-English functors, indicating perceptual sensitivity to familiar vs. unfamiliar elements. The results suggest that children may be able to use functors early in language acquisition to solve the segmentation and labeling problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-216
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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