My younger son tells me that talking about language – especially grammar – is boring. But it doesn’t need to be. Especially if you are sneaky!

To illustrate, I decided to review Brown’s 14 grammatical morphemes while attending Ironfest, the annual festival of steel and stuff you can make with it, including swords, armour, steam engines, and tanks.

What?

To recap, back in the 1960s and 1970s, clinical psychologist Roger Brown studied the grammatical development of three typically developing children of approximately 2 to 4 1/2 years of age. From these studies, he identified 14 grammatical morphemes, which he found could be measured reliably over time:

  1. Present progressive -ing
  2. Preposition in
  3. Preposition on
  4. Regular plural -s
  5. Irregular past tense verbs (e.g. came, ran, sat, broke)
  6. Regular possessive –s
  7. Uncontractible copula (It is [X]. Yes, it is/was. There I am.)
  8. Articles (a, the, an)
  9. Past tense regular –ed
  10. Regular third person –s (e.g. Dad eats.)
  11. Irregular third person (does, has)
  12. Uncontractible auxiliary (e.g. She was dancing.)
  13. Contractible copula (He’s handsome.)
  14. Contractible auxiliary (Dad’s yelling.)

So let’s get to it. Here’s how my review went down!

1. Present progressive -ing

The soldiers are marching.

2. Preposition in

Rapunzel is in the tower.

Brown's morphemes 2 Preposition in

3. Preposition on

The warships are floating on the water.

4. Regular plural -s

The queens are smiling.

Ironfest 2019

5. Irregular past tense verbs (e.g. came, ran, sat, broke)

The soldiers held their shields.

Brown's morphemes 5 Irregular past tense verbs

6. Regular possessive –s

The falconer‘s peregrine falcon.

Brown's morphemes Regular possessive –s

7. Uncontractible copula (It is [X]. Yes, it is/was. There I am.)

Was the sun going down? Yes, it was.

Brown's Morphemes 7 Uncontractible copula

8. Articles (a, the, an)

A carriage is parked on the grass.

Brown's morphemes 8 Articles (a, the, an)

9. Past tense regular –ed

The band played.

Brown's morphemes 9 Past tense regular –ed

10. Regular third person –s (e.g. Dad eats.)

The performer balances.

Brown's morphemes 10 Regular third person -s (e.g. Dad eats.)

11. Irregular third person (does, has)

The man has a steam engine and does a lap of the showground.

Brown's morphemes 11 Irregular third person (does, has)

12. Uncontractible auxiliary (e.g. She was dancing.)

He was cycling.

Brown's morphemes 12 Uncontractible auxiliary (e.g. She was dancing.)

13. Contractible copula (He’s handsome.)

He’s scary.

Brown's morphemes 13 Contractible copula (He’s handsome.)

14. Contractible auxiliary (Dad’s yelling.)

The wrestler’s jumping.

Brown's morphemes 14 Contractible auxiliary (Dad’s yelling.)

Related articles:

Principal source: R. Brown, A First Language: Early Stages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1973).

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