Complexity and density of Hebrew verbs in preschool peer talk : The effect of socio-economic background
Hebrew verbs were analyzed in the peer talk produced by 36 Hebrew-speaking children in two age/schooling groups (4;0–5;0 and 5;0–6;0 years), and from two socio-economic backgrounds (SES), mid-high and low. Each of the four age/SES groups consisted of nine children in three triads, where each triad was recorded for 30 minutes while playing. The interface of lexical and morphological growth was demonstrated in the developing organization of verbs in terms of roots, binyan conjugations and derivational families. SES was found the major source of variation in all measures, indicating a smaller and less specific verb lexicon in the low SES groups. Network analyses, a novel methodological approach, revealed the internal structure of the verb category in each age/SES cell, pointing to a scarce and less complex verb lexicon of the low SES groups. These measures also accounted for the growth potential of the network, increasing from the younger low SES group at one pole and peaking in the older mid-high SES at the other pole. These quantitative and qualitative differences in the morphological make-up of the verb lexicon and its usage patterns in preschool peer talk have implications for the impact of SES on verb learning in Hebrew.