Early Lexicon of the Yoruba Child

Bolanle Elizabeth Arokoyo


This paper examines the lexicon of the Yoruba child at the initial stage. We examined the composition of the early lexicon of the Yoruba child and how they are acquired. The research is couched in the Minimalist Programme which believes that language acquisition is a matter of learning vocabulary and determining lexical idiosyncrasies. A quantitative analysis of the data is carried out. The database consisted of longitudinal studies of three children, Damilare, Temiloluwa and Tola, between the ages of fifteen (15) and thirty-six (36) months. We found that there were few lexical items which were gradually built up by the children. We also discovered that the first sets of words to be acquired are verbal items, followed by nominal items. The presence of transitive and intransitive verbs is noted in the utterances of the children and we conclude that the children make use of verbs related to actions and events that they or those around them are involved in.



lexicon, minimalist programme, lexical items, verbal items, nominal items, verbs, mental dictionary, transitive, intransitive

Full Text:



Amfani, A. (2006). ‘Operation ‘merge’ and the formation of the Hausa full verb’. In Ndimele O., C. Ikekeonwu and B. M. Mba (eds.). Language and econmic reforms in Nigeria. Port Harcourt: M & J Grand Orbit Ltd.

Arokoyo, B. E. (2010). ‘Acquisition of Argument Structure by Pre-School Children in Nigeria’. Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages, University of Ilorin.

Awobuluyi, O. (1979) Essentials of Yorùbá grammar. Ibadan: University Press Limited.

Bamgbose, A. (1967). A short Yoruba grammar. London: Cambridge University Press.

Bloom, L., E. Tinker and C. Margulis. (1994). ‘The words children learn: evidence against a noun bias in early vocabularies’. Cognitive Development, 8, 431-450.

Choi, S. (1999). ‘Early development of verb structures and caregiver input in Korean: two case studies’. International Journal of Bilingualism 3.241-265.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Programme. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1998). ‘Some observations on economy in generative grammar.’ In Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax. Barbosa Pilar et al. (eds). Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. 115-127.

Chomsky, N. (1999). ‘Derivation by phase’. MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics 18. Cambridge, Mass: MITWPL.

Clark, B. (2000) ‘First and second language acquisition.’. Proceedings of the Lilian Katz Symposium, Nov. 5-7. Issues in Early Childhood Education; Curriculum, Teacher Education, and Dissemination of Information. 181-188.

Cook, V. (1996). ‘Minimalism, vocabulary and L2 learning.’ Paper presented at AILA, Jyvaskyla, 1996. www.homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/Writings/Papers/AILA96.htm retieved on 25th January, 2010.

Fukuda, S. (2005). transitivity bias and acquisition of verbs with transitivity alternation in English and Japanese. Ms. UCSD.

Fukuda, S. and Choi, S. (2006). ‘The Acquisition of transitivity in Japanese and Korean children.www2.hawaii.edu/~fukudash/JK17_final.pdf retrieved on 14th June, 2012.

Gopnik, A. (1988). Three types of early word: the emergence of social words, names and cognitive-relational words in the one-word stage and their relation to cognitive development. First Language, 8, 49-69.

Haegeman, L. (1994) Introduction to government and binding theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hopper, P. J. and S. A. Thompson (1984). ‘The discourse basis for lexical categorization in universal grammar.’ Language 60, 703-752.

Hróarsdóttir, T. (2003). ‘Language change and language acquisition’. In Dahl Anne, Bentzen Kristine, and Peter Svenonius (eds). Nordlyd 31.1 116-131.

Kessler, C. (1971). The acquisition of syntax in bilingual children. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Langacker, R. (1987). Foundations of cognitive grammar. Volume 1. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Levin, B. (2007). ‘The lexical semantics of verbs i: introduction and causal approaches to lexical semantics representation’. Stanford University: Course LSA.113P

Lin, J. (2004). Event structure and the encoding of arguments: the syntax of the Mandarin and English verb phrase. PhD Thesis submitted to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lofti, A. R. (1999) ‘Minimalist program revisited: Chomsky’s strength to trigger movement.’ Presented at the 11th European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information, ESSLLI‘99, Utrecht, August 99 as part of the workshop on Resource Logics and Minimalist Grammars (C.Retor´e & E. Stabler, organizers)

Longa, V. M. and G. Lorenzo (2008). ‘What about a ‘really’ minimalist theory of language acquisition?’ in Linguistics. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG. 46-3, 541-570.

Martinez-Ferreiro, S. and Mata-Vigara, M. (2007) ‘From minimalism to cartography: towards a unified account.’ http://seneca.uab.es/ggt/publicaticions/report/pdf/GGT-07-11.pdf. Retrieved on 1st December, 2009.

Nelson, K. (1973). ‘Structure and strategy in learning to talk’. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 38, 1-135.

Radford, A. (2000). ‘Children in search of perfection: towards a minimalist model of acquisition’. In Essex Research in Linguistics, Vol. 34, 57-74.

Radford, A. (2004) Minimalist syntax: exploring the structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robins, R. H. (1966). ‘The development of the word-class system of the European grammatical tradition’. Foundations of Language 2, 3-19.

Scherf, K. S. (2005) ‘Infant event representations and the acquisition of verb argument structure.’ Presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta, GA.

Stockwell, R. (1977) Foundations of syntactic theories. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.

Stoll S. , B. Bickel, E. Lieven, G. Banjade, T. N. Bhatta, M. Gaenszle, N. P. Paudyal, J. Pettigrew, I. P. Rai, M. Rai, and Rai, N. K. (2009). ‘Nouns and verbs in Chintang: children’s usage and surrounding adult speech.’ http://www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/staff/stoll/pdf/Nouns&verbs_Chintang.pdf. Retrieved on 28th of January, 2010.

Tomasello, M. and J. Todd. (1983). ‘Joint attention and lexical acquisition style.’ First Language, 4, 197-212.

Tomasello, M. and Brooks, P. (1998). Young children's earliest transitive and intransitive constructions. Cognitive Linguistics, 9: 379-395

Uziel-Karl, S. (2001). A multidimensional perspective on the acquisition of verb argument structure. A PhD Thesis submitted to the Senate of the Tel Aviv University.

Valian, V. (1991). ‘Syntactic subjects in the early speech of American and Italian children’. Cognition 40, 21-81.

Wilson, M. S., Fox, B. J. and Pascoe, J. P. (2008). Laureate’s language development programs: theory and research. Winooski: Laureate Learning Systems. www.LaureateLearning.com retrieved on 18th January, 2010.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v.1n.5p.64


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.