Competition between word order and case-marking in interpreting grammatical relations: a case study in multilingual acquisition
The study examines strategies multilingual children use to interpret grammatical relations, focusing on their two primary languages, Lajamanu Warlpiri and Light Warlpiri. Both languages use mixed systems for indicating grammatical relations. In both languages ergative–absolutive case-marking indicates core arguments, but to different extents in each language. In Lajamanu Warlpiri, pronominal clitics in a nominative–accusative pattern also indicate core arguments, and in Light Warlpiri word order in a nominative–accusative pattern partially does so. The study asks which sentence interpretation strategies children rely on most, when they learn to rely on them and whether cross-linguistic influences are seen. Children aged 5 ; 0, 7 ; 0 and 9 ; 0 and adults saw paired, animated events simultaneously on video and heard a transitive sentence spoken. The participants pointed to the event depicted by the sentence heard. Adults used a case-marking strategy consistently in both languages. Children initially used both case-marking and word order strategies, but used case-marking more often as age increased.
from the Journal of Child Language