C H I L D E S Premorphology

All examples are from Seth

(Peters 1993, 1995, 1999, in press; Peters & Menn 1993)

Ages: months.weeks

D: Daddy
S: Seth
^   main stress


18.0 [18.0b1]  18.0mplay 2.5 sec
10:00   S: m ^p(l)ay?
10:04       m ^p(l)ay?

19.1  [19.1a2]  19.0ngross 8.2 sec   too long?
            D: gross.
8:49     S: ng gro--ss.
            D: yeah.
8:53     S: ng gro--ss.
8:56         ng gro--ss.
            D: yeah.

20.0  [20.0a1]  20.0gonegone  1.8 sec
6:15     S: n tru(ck).
6:20         n tru(ck).
            D: what about the truck.
6:24     S: ng ^gagan.
            D: it's ^gonegone.

Premorphological recognition criteria:

  • Not readily mappable onto target adult morphemes.
  • No systematic morphosyntactic function (however idiosyncratic).
  • May be restricted to full syllables.

[In hindsight, once an individual child has moved past this stage, her premorphological fillers may be seen to have served as an utterance-planning bridge from one-word to two-word utterances and/or served a rhythmic function, enabling the child to achieve the gestalt of a full adult sentence.  Thus, the ultimate decision about the status of a given child's early fillers must be made post-hoc: if they just disappear, they were purely phonological; if they evolve continuously into identifiable morphemes they were (or became) protomorphemic.]