Morphological acquisition of verb agreement inflections in Egyptian children (3;0-6;0): a preliminary study
Background: This study investigates the morphological acquisition of agreement inflections of the imperfective and perfective verbs in typically
developing Egyptian Arabic-speaking children between 3;0 and 6;0. It also tries
to call attention to the inaccurate use of the terms ‘present tense morpheme’ and ‘past tense morpheme’, and the need for a change in terminology, which is not just simply a change, but will have potentially significant impact on the field of language development in Arabic, whether typical or atypical and its theories.
Method: Thirty children were recruited and divided into three age groups
separated by one-year-interval. For the imperfective verbs, two syllabic structures
were investigated ('CVC.CVC (Structure 1) and CV.'CVCaCa (Structure 2)) and their corresponding perfective structures ('CV.CVC and CVCaCa respectively). Five verbs were tested for each structure. An average of 90% correct usage of agreement inflections for each group was used as the threshold for mastery acquisition for the imperfective and perfective verbs, in the context of present and past tense respectively.
Findings: The results showed that children in Group I did not acquire to a mastery level any of the forms. Children in Group II acquired all forms except for Structure 2 for both the imperfective and perfective verbs, but with very small
percentages below the acquisition threshold. Children in Group III acquired all
forms to a mastery level. Discussion: The results showed that the use of imperfective verbs instead of both structures of the perfective verbs was a predominant error type in the youngest group. This might be for a number of reasons. One of the reasons might be the difficulty of the metalinguistic concept of the perfective verb as children
start acquiring what is “here and now” first. The results revealed that a default type error was the predominant error type used to substitute both the imperfective
and perfective verbs, in the youngest group. Such default form is more likely an
imperative-like error which was used as a means of reducing the morphological
load of the imperfective agreement paradigm which is a more complex paradigm.
Even in the case of the perfective, it is more likely that children were intending to use the imperfective as they might not have acquired the perfective yet and as above, the errors resembling the imperative resulted from simplifying the
agreement prefix of the imperfective.
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