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Paths in L1 acquisition of verb second in Swedish children: On the role of input and frequency
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Humanities.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0983-6333
2009 (English)In: Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition (GALA), Lisbon, September 11, 2009, 2009Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This presentation deals with similarities and differences in L1 acquisition of verb second (V2) among Swedish children. In Swedish, V2 means that the finite verb must be the second constituent in main clauses (1). In subordinate clauses, however, the finite verb occurs in a lower position, following sentence negation (2).

(1) a. Igår          ville       Per inte   handla   julklappar.

         yesterday  wanted  Per  not   shop      Christmas-gifts

     b. *Igår        Per ville      inte handla julklappar.

         yesterday Per  wanted not  shop   Christmas-gifts

(2) …att  Per inte ville      handla julklappar        igår.

       that Per not  wanted shop   Christmas-gifts yesterday

V2 in child language has been discussed thoroughly in the literature, linking it to issues such as verbal morphology, markedness and economy, verb semantics, finiteness and bilingualism (e.g. Jordens 1990, Clahsen & Penke 1992, Poeppel & Wexler 1993, Santelmann 1995, Platzack 1996, Bohnacker 1999), and to some extent to issues of input and frequency (e.g. Josefsson 2003, Westergaard 2006, Waldmann 2008). This study investigates the acquisition of V2 among 4 monolingual Swedish speaking children, focusing on their input as well as their production.

As regards the input for V2, there are vast individual similarities, quantitatively and qualitatively. All 4 children are exposed to an equally large and stable amount of input for V2 during the investigated age period (1;6–3;0), a similar observation also reported for Norwegian children (Westergaard 2006). Lexically, the input for V2 is characterized to a great extent by the same finite verbs and initial constituents.

Although exposed to a similar input for V2, not all 4 children acquire V2 alike. 3 children adhere to the general picture presented in previous studies, i.e. that V2 is applied consistently already in the earliest finite utterances and that finite verbs are rarely misplaced. A detailed study of one of the children reveals that her use of V2 does not seem to be limited to certain lexical items, not even in the earliest finite utterances.

The fourth child, called Tea, makes abundant verb placement errors up to an age of 3;3, a period during which she applies V2 only sporadically. It is however argued that Tea’s early V2 consists of imitated chunks and that V2 is not applied systematically until just before 3;0. Moreover, it is argued that Tea does not misplace finite verbs randomly, but that her verb placement in main clauses develops systematically in 3 phases: from a low verbal position following sentence negation (V), as in subordinate clauses (see (2) above), via a verbal position in the middle of the clause (I), as in (1b) above, to the second position (C), as in (1a) above. The transition to V2 happens abruptly between 3;3 and 3;4.

As regards the theoretical implications of my results, I discuss the role of input and frequency in acquisition, arguing that neither copying of input patterns based on frequency nor triggering parameters can capture Tea’s verb placement. Instead it seems that Tea formulates and evaluates different hypotheses, a strategy which allows children to take different paths in acquisition. Furthermore, I explore the relation between verb placement in subordinate clauses in the input and Tea’s deviating verb placement in main clauses.

References

Bohnacker, Ute. 1999: Icelandic plus English: Language differentiation and functional categories in a successively bilingual child. Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Durham, UK.

Clahsen, Harald & Penke, Martina. 1992: "The acquisition of agreement morphology and its syntactic consequences: new evidence on German child language from the Simone-corpus." In Meisel, Jürgen M. (ed.), The acquisition of verb placement: functional categories and V2 phenomena in language acquisition, pp. 181-224. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Jordens, Peter. 1990: "The acquisition of verb placement in Dutch and German." In Linguistics, 28, pp. 1407-1448.

Josefsson, Gunlög. 2003: "Input and output: sentence patterns in child and adult Swedish." In Josefsson, Gunlög, Platzack, Christer & Håkansson, Gisela (eds.), The acquisition of Swedish grammar, pp. 95-133. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Platzack, Christer. 1996: "The Initial Hypothesis of Syntax: A Minimalist Perspective on Language Acquisition and Attrition." In Clahsen, Harald (ed.), Generative Perspectives on Language Acquisition, pp. 369-414. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Poeppel, David & Wexler, Ken. 1993: "The Full Competence Hypothesis of Clause Structure in Early German." In Language, 69:1, pp. 1-33.

Santelmann, Lynn Marie. 1995: The acquisition of Verb Second grammar in child Swedish: continuity of universal grammar in Wh-questions, topicalization and verb raising. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI.

Waldmann, Christian. 2008: Input och output. Ordföljd i svenska barns huvudsatser och bisatser. PhD-thesis. Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University.

Westergaard, Marit R. 2006: "Triggering V2: The Amount of Input Needed for Parameter Setting in a Split-CP Model of Word Order." In Belletti, Adriana, Bennati, Elisa, Chesi, Cristiano, DiDomenico, Elisa & Ferrari, Ida (eds.), Language Acquisition and Development: Proceedings of GALA 2005, pp. 658-671. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009.
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Humanities, Swedish; Humanities, Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-59523OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-59523DiVA: diva2:1060284
Conference
Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition (GALA)
Available from: 2016-12-28 Created: 2016-12-28 Last updated: 2017-01-09Bibliographically approved

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