Diminutivization supports gender acquisition in Russian children

Vera Kempe*, Patricia J. Brooks, Natalija Mironova, Olga Fedorova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Gender agreement elicitation was used with Russian children to examine how diminutives common in Russian child-directed speech affect gender learning. Forty-six children (2;9-4;8) were shown pictures of familiar and of novel animals and asked to describe them after hearing their names, which all contained regular morphophonological cues to masculine or feminine gender. Half were presented as simplex (e.g. jozh 'porcupine') and half as diminutive forms (e.g. jozhik 'porcupine-DIM'). Children produced fewer agreement errors for diminutive than for simplex nouns, indicating that the regularizing features of diminutives enhance gender categorization. The study demonstrates how features of child-directed speech can facilitate language learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-485
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2003


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