“Mam, my trousers is fa'in doon!”: Community, caregiver, and child in the acquisition of variation in a Scottish dialect

Jennifer Smith, Mercedes Durham, Liane Fortune

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    107 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent work on acquisition in sociolinguistic research suggests that some aspects of the structured variation found in adult speech are evident ill children's speech from the very start of language acquisition, and input from the primary caregiver is crucial ill this process. In this article we contribute to this research by conducting a cross-sectional analysis of the acquisition of variable forms in a Scottish dialect. Two linguistic variables are targeted in the speech of eleven children (2;10-3;6) and their primary caregivers. Quantitative analysis of over 5000 contexts of use demonstrates that one variable is conditioned by social and linguistic constraints in the speech of the caregiver and these constraints are matched by the children. In contrast, the other variable is influenced by a complex array of linguistic constraints only. We explore the ramifications of these findings for understanding the mechanisms involved in acquisition of variation from the very earliest stages.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-99
    Number of pages37
    JournalLanguage Variation and Change
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • mothers speech
    • black-English
    • verbal-S
    • language
    • infants

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