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Title: Child Acquisition of Quechua Morphosyntax
Authors: Courtney, Ellen Hazlehurst
Keywords: American Indigenous Languages (Southern)
Quechuan Languages
Issue Date: 1998
Publisher: The University of Arizona
Abstract: The goal of this study is to inform child language acquisition theor>' byaccomplishing a description of morphosyntactic development in Quechua speakers between the approximate ages of two and four years. The data analysis yields a description of language acquisition in two major areas: (I) overall development of synta.x and of morphology directly relevant to the syntax; (2) development of verb morphology. No attempt is made to support any particular theory of language development. Instead, a number of theoretical perspectives are considered. Fieldwork was carried out in the community of Chalhuanca in the department of Arequipa, Peru, in 1996. The study relies largely on the naturalistic production of six Chalhuancan children between the ages of 2;0 years and 3;9 years. Five children were recorded for five to six hours over a period of four months; the sixth child was recorded for eleven hours over a period of six months. The child corpora, as well as child-directed adult speech, were transcribed by native speakers of Quechua. Also presented is the outcome of an elicitation procedure undertaken with few subjects. The description of overall syntactic development focuses on four topics: (I) the representation of arguments, both analytic and morphological; (2) case- and objectmarking; (3) reduplication, ellipsis, and evidential focus; and (4) coordination and subordination. The analysis of the development of verb morphology considers the role of several factors in the acquisition of the verb suffixes: meaning, homophony, phonological aspects, frequency of occurrence, and processing constraints. This description also sheds light on the acquisition of causatives, especially change-of-state verbs, with data presented from naturalistic corpora and the experimental procedure. The analysis favors Strong Continuity: functional projections are available to children before they acquire full productivity of the corresponding morphology. Meaning is foremost in the development of verb morphology, with children seeking unique form-funciion correspondences. As children begin producing complex verbs, they tend initially to attach a small set of suffixes and their combinations to a wide variety of roots. Finally, the data suggest that children may initially assume that change-of-state verbs are basically transitive.
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