Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Richard Lauersdorf


In this thesis I attempt to answer three questions:

H1) Do children use proportionally more prenominal or post-nominal placement of adjectives than adults?

H2) Are children more conservative or more creative in their behavior in alternating prenominal and post-nominal placement of adjectives?

H3) If colored terms are more frequent in child speech will they pattern more like prenominal adjectives or more like post nominal adjectives, as in adult speech?

To do this, I examine two general semantic viewpoints, opting to use Scontras & Goodman (2017) subjectivity hypothesis. Next, I provide a general overview of First Language Acquisition research and then I turn to specifics of French adjective semantics and syntax, paying particular attention to factors that influence the preferential placement of an individual adjective. I next turn to some psychological factors, making certain types of adjectives especially difficult or easy to learn. I conclude by extending the work of Fox (2012).

All this information is to provide the reader theoretical background to understand children’s adjective placement. The real answers come through a corpus investigation of how French children are treating adjectives in the earliest stages of development. Methodologically I answer my three questions by using three corpora from the CHILDES database (MacWhinney 2000). I also create an adult control group from a spoken French corpus. I run mixed effects models to project the behavior of adjectives past the sampling age using R.

In the end, I discover that children are more conservative at this early stage. This can be seen by the greater number of post-nominal adjectives. I define conservative behavior as sticking more closely to either position (prenominal or post-nominal) than adults. For example, if a child uses an adjective more closely to 100% prenominal or 0% prenominal than adults, the child is being more conservative than an adult. I also find that children use proportionally more color terms than adults and are more creative with some common color terms. Size and color terms were found to be quickly learned.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)