The acquisition of the semantics of Japanese numeral classifiers: The methodological value of nonsense
This study examined the acquisition of numeral classifiers in 120 monolingual Japanese children. Previous research has argued that the complex semantic system underlying classifiers is late acquired. Thus, we set out to determine the age at which Japanese children are able to extend the semantic properties of classifiers to novel items/situations. Participants completed a comprehension task with a mouse-tracking extension and a production task with nonce and familiar items. While the comprehension results showed ceiling effects on familiar and nonce items, age significantly modulated a difference in accuracy between familiar and nonce items in the production task. The findings suggest that the acquisition of the underlying semantic system is acquired much earlier than previously argued. Previously attested issues with Japanese classifier production in young(er) children are more likely to reflect accessing difficulties than indexing the underlying grammatical competence of the classifier system.