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The acquisition of Neg-V and V-Neg in embedded clauses in Swedish: A microparametric approach
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Language and Literature. Umeå University.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0983-6333
2012 (English)In: Decennium : The First Ten Years of CASTL, Tromsö, September 13, 2012, 2012Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This presentation deals with the acquisition of embedded verb placement in Swedish children, focusing the position of the finite verb in relation to a negation or sentence-medial adverb. In Swedish, the verb typically follows the negation/sentence adverb in embedded clauses (Neg-V); however, in embedded clauses introduced by att ‘that’, the verb may sometimes precede the negation/sentence adverb (V-Neg):

(1) De   frågade om han inte ville     komma imorgon. (Neg-V)

     they asked    if   he   not   wanted come    tomorrow

(2) De   trodde   att  han ville    inte komma imorgon. (V-Neg)

     they thought that he  wanted not  come    tomorrow

Investigating child speech and child-directed speech from four Swedish-speaking children between the age of 1;6 and 4;0, it is demonstrated that, despite the lack of clear evidence for the Neg-V order in the input to Swedish children, the children distinguish between different types of embedded clauses in the acquisition of Neg-V and V-Neg already between the age of 3 and 4. However, at the earliest stage, the children often use V-Neg in embedded clauses that only allow Neg-V in adult Swedish.

It is argued that the findings can be neatly accommodated in a microparametric approach to language acquisition, according to which children are sensitive to very fine syntactic distinctions in the input and are able to produce these fine distinctions at an early age (see for example Westergaard 2008, 2009a, 2009b). The findings are also in agreement with the hypothesis of economy of movement developed by Westergaard & Bentzen (2007). At the earliest stage, a principle of economy of movement creates an overuse of V-Neg order in Swedish children’s embedded clauses, while the extremely low frequency of the target-consistent Neg-V order in child-directed Swedish obstructs children from revising their initial hypothesis about the verb placement in embedded clauses, creating a delay in the acquisition of Neg-V.

Finally, comparing child-directed Swedish to child-directed German, it is further proposed that the presence of clear evidence for verb-final in the input to German children aids error-free acquisition of embedded verb placement in German (see for example Rothweiler 1993).

REFERENCES

Rothweiler, Monika. 1993. Der Erwerb von Nebensätzen im Deutschen: eine Pilotstudie. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Westergaard, Marit. 2008. Acquisition and change: on the robustness of the triggering experience for word order cues. Lingua 118(12), 1841-1863.

Westergaard, Marit. 2009a. The Acquisition of Word Order: Micro-cues, information structure, and economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Westergaard, Marit. 2009b. Usage-based vs. rule-based learning: the acquisition of word order in wh-questions in English and Norwegian. Journal of Child Language 36(5), 1023-1051.

Westergaard, Marit & Kristine Bentzen. 2007. The (non-) effect of input frequency on the acquisition of word order in Norwegian embedded clauses. In Insa Gülzow & Natalia Gagarina (eds.), Frequency effects in language acquisition: defining the limits of frequency as an explanatory concept, 271-306. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012.
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Humanities, Swedish
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-59520OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-59520DiVA: diva2:1060242
Conference
Decennium: The First Ten Years of CASTL, Tromsö, September 13, 2012
Available from: 2016-12-28 Created: 2016-12-28 Last updated: 2017-03-02Bibliographically approved

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