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Acquisition of copula BE (Guo & Weiler, 2023)

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posted on 2023-04-25, 21:40 authored by Ling-Yu Guo, Brian Weiler

Purpose: Prior work has shown that subject types affected the production of copula BE in young children who spoke General American English (GAE). However, the role of predicate types on the production of copula BE remains unclear. This study examined how predicate types affected the production of copula “is” in young GAE-speaking children.

Method: Seventeen 2-year-old children with typical language development who spoke GAE were included in this study. Children’s production rate of copula “is” in sentences with nominal (e.g., The dog is a king), permanent-adjectival (e.g., The dog is white), temporary-adjectival (e.g., The dog is very hot), or locative (e.g., The dog is outside) predicates was examined using an elicited repetition task.

Results: Two-year-old children who spoke GAE were more likely to repeat copula “is” correctly with nominal, permanent-adjectival, and temporary-adjectival predicates than with locative predicates after sentence length was controlled. There were no other significant differences between predicate types.

Conclusions: Overall, locative predicates are the least facilitative for the production of copula “is” as compared to other predicate types. Predicate types, especially locative predicates, should be considered when the clinician creates sentences to evaluate the production of copula BE and to provide intervention for GAE-speaking children.

Supplemental Material S1. Contrastive and target sentences.

Supplemental Material S2. Sample pictures for target sentences.

Guo, L.-Y., & Weiler, B. (2023). Effect of predicate types on the production of copula “is” in 2-year-old children who speak general American English. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This project was supported by the Language Learning Research Grant (Blackwell Publishing) awarded to the first author.