Individual differences in early vocabulary development: redefining the referential-expressive distinction.

E. V. Lieven, J. M. Pine, H. D. Barnes

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    The existence of stylistic variation between children in the early stages of language acquisition has been most frequently studied using Nelson's (1973) referential-expressive distinction. While the use of this distinction has generated a great deal of interesting research, there are a number of major problems associated with it. The present study presents a simple scheme, based on formal categories, for coding stylistic variation in the early lexicon. When applied to the first 50 and 100 words of 12 children collected between 0;11 and 2;3, the major dimensions of difference are found to be the relative proportion of common nouns and the relative proportion of frozen phrases. Moreover, the proportion of frozen phrases is also found to be significantly positively related to children's early productivity, suggesting that, rather than being a 'dead-end' in early language development, the acquisition of frozen phrases may provide an alternative route into multiword speech.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)287-310
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Child Language
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1992


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