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Ewa Haman, Andrea Zevenbergen, Melissa Andrus and Marta Chmielewska

Coining Compounds and Derivations - A Crosslinguistic Elicitation Study of Word-Formation Abilities of Preschool Children and Adults in Polish and English

This paper examines word-formation abilities in coining compounds and derivatives in preschool children and adult speakers of two languages (English and Polish) differing in overall word-formation productivity and in favoring of particular word-formation patterns (compounding vs. derivation). An elicitation picture naming task was designed to assess these abilities across a range of word-formation categories. Adult speakers demonstrated well-developed word-formation skills in patterns both typical and non-typical for their native language. In contrast with adult results, preschool children predominantly coined innovations conforming to the general pattern of their language: Polish children favoring derivation and American children favoring compounding. The results show that although children are improving their wordformation skills during the preschool years, they need much more experience to come to the mature proficiency in using the variety of word-formation patterns available in their language.

Open access

Andrea Angell Zevenbergen, Ewa Haman and Jason Andrew Zevenbergen


The present study examined references to cognitive states and emotions in narratives produced by mothers and preschoolers (aged 3 or 5 years) in Polish and American families. Participants were 32 mother-child dyads from Poland and 32 mother-child dyads from the United States. The two samples were matched with regard to child age, child gender, maternal age, and maternal education. The mother-child dyads were asked to tell three personal narratives. The co-constructed narratives were coded for mother and child references to cognitive states and emotions. Polish mothers were found to include significantly more references to cognitive states in their narratives than American mothers. Results also revealed significant correlations between mothers’ and children’s references to cognitive states across both samples. Related to child development, 5-year-olds produced significantly more tokens in the narratives than 3-year-olds. This study shows that mothers’ use of cognitive state terms in shared narratives with their young children differs across two Western cultural contexts. The results of this study are discussed with regard to two themes in developmental psycholinguistics: relations between maternal and child language use, and cross-cultural variation.