From opacity to transparency

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The paper considers Hebrew-acquiring children’s transition from pervasive non-marking to productive command of grammatical systems in three linguistic domains: verb inflection, predicate elaboration, and clause-combining. The first two are examined in longitudinal samples from three children (age-range: 1;4–2;5), the third in an additional database of three children (age-range: 2;0–3;0). The following developmental patterns emerge for all three domains: (1) earliest constructions used by children are non-marked and typically opaque, that is, they lack a clear, unambiguous target; (2) opaque constructions continue to occur even after the emergence of initial productive usages that are restricted to the least specific, most neutral members of each paradigm; and (3) children’s individual preferences for certain types of opaque constructions show consistent patterns across linguistic domains. These cross-domain trends are analyzed in terms of developmental phases (Berman 1986a, 2004; KarmiloffSmith 1986), where the two initial phases in each domain rely largely on favored transitional categories, initially non-marked and subsequently neutrally-marked constructions. This phase-based approach aims at providing a new perspective on the early development of Hebrew grammar, possibly on the path of acquisition of grammatical marking in general.


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