The acquisition of phonology based on input: A closer look at the relation of cross-linguistic and child language data

Tania S. Zamuner, Louann Gerken, Michael Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


Parallels between cross-linguistic and child language data have been used to support a theory of language development in which acquisition is mediated by universal grammar (Universal Grammar Hypothesis-UGH). However, structures that are frequent across languages are also typically the most frequent within a specific language. This confounding of cross-linguistic and language-specific data is consistent with the hypothesis that children acquire the grammar of the specific languages to which they are exposed, based on a less constrained acquisition mechanism (Specific Language Grammar Hypothesis-SLGH). These two theories of acquisition are contrasted in an examination of English-speaking children's acquisition of codas. Predictions for the UGH were based on cross-linguistic patterns and on frequency analyses of codas from 35 languages. Results showed that languages prefer coronal and sonorant codas; however, children's productions did not favor these codas. Predictions for the SLGH were established on the frequency of English codas, and significant correlations were found between children's coda productions and the frequency of English codas. Using this approach, children's coda production is best characterized with respect to frequently occurring properties of the input, which serve to organize children's linguistic representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1403-1426
Number of pages24
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005



  • Acquisition
  • Input
  • Phonology
  • Universal grammar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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