Truncation to subminimal words in early French

Katherine Demuth*, Mark Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


It has commonly been proposed that there is a stage in development where children's early productions are binary feet, or minimal words. However, the present study of a French-speaking child (1;1-1;8) finds an extended period where both CVC and disyllabic target words are truncated to CV after initially being produced as reduplicated CiVCiV forms. That is, the child appears to regress, failing to produce disyllabic forms that could be produced earlier. This article proposes an explanation for this apparent regression in terms of segmental-prosodic constraint interaction, where the child's limited segmental inventory, in conjunction with the high frequency of CV lexical items in everyday French, conspire to yield subminimal truncations as "optimal" at this stage in development. These findings provide support for a growing body of literature showing the importance of both constraint interaction and frequency effects in early production, arguing for a more probabilistic approach to theories of language learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-241+439
Number of pages42
JournalCanadian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


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