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The Impact of Inflectional Awareness on Syntactic Bootstrapping and Fast Mapping of Novel Verbs in Filipino, English, and Chabacano

Claribel C. Concepcion

Date of publication:

June and December 2005

To utilize morphological cues for syntactic bootstrapping, language learners must recognize that inflectionally varying words are instances of the same word Children who are exposed to languages with richer inflectional morphologies than English and Chabacano, such as Filipino, experience instances of inflectional variation often. Consequently, they may distinguish inflectionally varying words as instances of the same words at an earlier age than do learners of Chabacano and English In this paper, Filipino-English- and Chabacano English-speaking children aged 46-81 months were taught novel verbs in fast mapping tasks under two conditions: no inflectional variation, in which inflections did not vary between test and exposure (e.g. neps, neps) and inflectional variation in which inflections alternated between exposure and testing (e.g. neps, nepped). This kind of procedure was aimed at examining the Filipino bilingual children's ability to fast map, their inflectional awareness and ability to use the syntactic bootstrapping mechanism to narrow down the referents of novel verbs, and their bootstrapping capability in relation to age and level of vocabulary development. Results revealed that the bilingual children were able to fast map the novel verbs presented to them in their two languages. They were also aware of the inflectional morphemes joined with the target novel verbs and used these as syntactic cues to narrow down the referents of novel verbs. This was indicated by the significant effect in the two conditions that were examined. There was also a significant difference in the performance between the Filipino-English- and Chabacano English speaking children, but the bootstrapping ability of the children did not
co"elate with age but related to the children's level of vocabulary
development. These findings suggest that exposure to languages with richer morphologies can facilitate children's recognition of inflectional
morphemes and enable them to break down the stem and the inflection.

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