Learners of most languages are faced with the task of acquiring words to talk about number and quantity. Much is known about the order of acquisition of number words and the cognitive and perceptual systems and cultural practices that shape it. Substantially less is known about the acquisition of quantifiers. Here we consider systems and practices that support number word acquisition in order to determine that their relevance to quantifiers is limited. Instead, we propose that a major constraint in the acquisition of quantifiers comes from their rich and varied meaning. We investigate competence with the expressions for 'all', 'none', 'some', 'some…not' and 'most' in 31 languages, representing 11 language types, by testing 768 5-year-old children and 536 adults. The findings reveal four dimensions of the meaning and use of quantifiers that constrain the order of acquisition in similar ways across languages in our sample. In addition, exploratory analyses reveal that language-and learner-specific factors, such as negative concord and gender, are significant predictors of variation. Significance Statement: Much is known about the order of acquisition of number words, but relatively little about the order of acquisition of other quantity expressions. We propose that the order of acquisition of quantifiers is largely a consequence of the nature of their meaning. Four dimensions of the meaning and use of quantifiers are found to constrain the order of acquisition in similar ways in 31 languages, representing 11 language types.
Katsos, N., Cummins, C., Ezeizabarrena, M.-J., Gavarró, A., Kraljević, J. K., Hrzica, G., … Noveck, I. (2014). Cross-linguistic patterns in the acquisition of quantifiers Cross-linguistic Constraints in the Order of Acquisition of Quantifiers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(33), 9244–9249. Retrieved from http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/26414032/OrderofQuantifiers_main_text_SS_ack_2_.pdf