Are there biological gender differences at the early stages of first language acquisition when producing double object constructions and to/for-datives?
Palabras clave:biological gender, double object, to/for-dative, emergence, adult input
This study examines whether biological gender differences appear in the early stages of acquisition in the case of English dative alternation (DA) structures (double object constructions (DOCs) and to/for-datives). Girls have been found to show faster syntactic development when compared to boys (Lovas, 2011). In the case of the acquisition of DA, an order in the emergence and in the incidence of English DA would entail a syntactic derivational status between DOCs and to/for-datives with one being the original structure and the other the derived one (Gu, 2010). However, analogous ages of onset and fairly similar frequency rates in the production could suggest the construction of two underived structures. We investigate whether biological gender differences appear in the case of DOCs and to/for-datives. We also investigate whether the exposure to English DA (adult input) results in differences between the girls’ output and the boys’ output. We analyze data from seven monolingual English girls and six monolingual English boys, and the adults that interact with them, as available in CHILDES. Our findings reveal that monolingual girls and monolingual boys pattern closely in the acquisition of the syntactic non-derivational relationship between DOCs and to/for-datives, as seen in their similar emergence. Biological gender differences are not seen either in the acquisition of the additional properties of to/for-datives given their later onset and their lower incidence when compared to DOCs. These production patterns also correlate with the frequency with which these structures are heard in the adult input.
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