Aquisition of multipliers: learning a new class of number

Abstract

Acquisition of number words has been examined in great detail for the count list of one through nine, but rarely do multi-digit numbers receive any study (Carey, 2009; Fuson et al., 2007). In English, once we pass into triple digits, we encounter a new class of number: multipliers. Multipliers are characterized by the unique syntactic structure of number + multiplier + noun(pl). 27 children aged 4 to 6 years old were taught a novel word (“gobi”) using the multiplier structure. After being trained to identify one gobi objects, children were tested on their ability to generalize gobi in four additional contexts. Participants fell into one of two distinct groups that either consistently passed or failed all tasks (t(25) = 13.406, p < 0.001). We conclude that prior to formal education children are able to identify the multiplier structure with minimal exposure and discuss implications for children’s acquisition of multi-digit numbers.


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