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The acquisition of demonstratives in a complex noun class system

The acquisition of demonstratives in a complex noun class system We present an exploratory study of 2- to 3-year-old children’s acquisition of the demonstrative system of Eegimaa (ISO 369–3 bqj), an endangered language belonging to the Jóola cluster of the Atlantic family of the Niger-Congo phylum, spoken by about 13,000 speakers in southwestern Senegal. Eegimaa demonstratives express distance from speaker (proximal, medial and distal) and the agreement categories of number and gender, as well as having four morphological types that create an additional dimension of complexity for children to learn. These demonstrative types are each associated with a range of syntactic functions with partial overlaps.From nearly seven hours of recordings, including children at three age points (2;0, 2;6 and 3;0), we extracted 218 demonstrative tokens from the children’s speech, matched with 205 tokens from a sub-sample of caregiver speech. The youngest children can be described as restricting their use of demonstratives to a small set of learned items, with evidence of generalisation and productivity arising over the course of development, alongside an increase in frequency and development in distribution patterns of the various demonstrative forms to more target-like usage in the 3;0 sample. At age three we observe more variation by syntactic function. As has been found in other languages, children acquiring Eegimaa seem to make use of the diverse forms of demonstratives early, but they do not yet make use of the full range of forms even at age three, when they are beginning to produce more systematic forms of the demonstratives across syntactic contexts and with a variety of genders. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Word Structure Edinburgh University Press

The acquisition of demonstratives in a complex noun class system

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
1750-1245
eISSN
1755-2036
DOI
10.3366/word.2022.0209
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

We present an exploratory study of 2- to 3-year-old children’s acquisition of the demonstrative system of Eegimaa (ISO 369–3 bqj), an endangered language belonging to the Jóola cluster of the Atlantic family of the Niger-Congo phylum, spoken by about 13,000 speakers in southwestern Senegal. Eegimaa demonstratives express distance from speaker (proximal, medial and distal) and the agreement categories of number and gender, as well as having four morphological types that create an additional dimension of complexity for children to learn. These demonstrative types are each associated with a range of syntactic functions with partial overlaps.From nearly seven hours of recordings, including children at three age points (2;0, 2;6 and 3;0), we extracted 218 demonstrative tokens from the children’s speech, matched with 205 tokens from a sub-sample of caregiver speech. The youngest children can be described as restricting their use of demonstratives to a small set of learned items, with evidence of generalisation and productivity arising over the course of development, alongside an increase in frequency and development in distribution patterns of the various demonstrative forms to more target-like usage in the 3;0 sample. At age three we observe more variation by syntactic function. As has been found in other languages, children acquiring Eegimaa seem to make use of the diverse forms of demonstratives early, but they do not yet make use of the full range of forms even at age three, when they are beginning to produce more systematic forms of the demonstratives across syntactic contexts and with a variety of genders.

Journal

Word StructureEdinburgh University Press

Published: Nov 1, 2022

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