The grammatical markers we use in language, such as the past tense at the end of words, for example –ed, are called Morphemes. Morphology is the study of how morphemes are put together. The definition of a morpheme is the ‘smallest meaningful unit of language’. These grammatical morphemes apply inflections which signals meaning to nouns (person, place or thing), verbs (action words), and adjectives (descriptive words) within our language.
Nineteen to twenty eight months
The first morphemes at the end of words begin to arise at this age. Children will often use the –ing progressive present tense morpheme first at the end of verbs, such as ‘he is running’, ‘eating’ and ‘sleeping’.
Twenty nine to thirty eight months
Children at this age begin to use regular plurals by placing the -s sound on the end of words such as ‘socks’, ‘shoes’ and ‘boys’. They use progressive present tense morphemes in a more complex way without the auxiliary (e.g. ‘is’/’are’) such as in the sentence, ‘Look at the boy running’. Children also use semi-auxiliaries such as ‘gonna’, ‘gotta’ and ‘wanna’ and present tense auxiliaries such as ‘can’, ‘will’, ‘be’ and ‘do’. They begin to use and incorrectly overgeneralise regular past tense. Children also begin to use possessives, –s, at this age to indicate other people’s belonging such as ‘Carla’s hat’.
Thirty nine to forty two months
At this age children use past tense modals such as could, would, should, must and might. Children also begin to use the verb to be, such as ‘is/are’ with the present progressive –ing suffix, such as in the sentence ‘The baby is crying’.
Forty three to forty six months
The use of regular part tense –ed, such as ‘he kicked’ or ‘she jumped’ is well developed and used during this age bracket. Irregular past tense verbs such as ‘ate’, ‘flew’ and ‘rode’ also begin to emerge during this stage. Third person singular and present tense, such as in the sentence ‘he drinks’ are also use by children at this age and articles such as ‘a’ and ‘the’ emerge within their sentences.
Forty seven to Fifty months
Around this time children start to use contractible auxiliaries such as ‘The boy’s talking’ as opposed to the uncontracted version ‘the boy is talking’ although both are present within their speech. This is similar for contractible copulas with ‘it’s’ and ‘it is’ both being used in conversations. Numerous forms of the verb ‘to be’ also emerge at this age such as the irregular third person singular ‘has’ and the past tense of the ‘to be verb’ such as in the sentence ‘He was dancing’. At this age children make the occasional grammatical error however for the most part their everyday speech is grammatically correct.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have questions about language activities, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
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