Grammatical morphology as a source of early number word meanings

Journal Article
Magazine \ Newspaper: 
PNAS
Issue Number: 
46
Volume Number: 
110
Pages: 
18448–18453
Publication Abstract: 

How does cross-linguistic variation in linguistic structure affect children’s acquisition of early number word meanings? We tested this question by investigating number word learning in two unrelated languages that feature a tripartite singular-dual-plural distinction: Slovenian and Saudi Arabic. We found that learning dual morphology affects children’s acquisition of the number word two in both languages, relative to English. Children who knew the meaning of two were surprisingly frequent in the dual languages, relative to English. Furthermore, Slovenian children were faster to learn two than children learning English, despite being less-competent counters. Finally, in both Slovenian and Saudi Arabic, comprehension of the dual was correlated with knowledge of two and higher number words.