The acquisition of ergative marking in Kaluli, Ku Waru and Duna (Trans New Guinea)

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In this chapter we present material on the acquisition of ergative marking on noun phrases in three languages of Papua New Guinea: Kaluli, Ku Waru, and Duna. The expression of ergativity in all the languages is broadly similar, but sensitive to language-specific features, and this pattern of similarity and difference is reflected in the available acquisition data. Children acquire adult-like ergative marking at about the same pace, reaching similar levels of mastery by 3;00 despite considerable differences in morphological complexity of ergative marking among the languages. What may be more important – as a factor in accounting for the relative uniformity of acquisition in this respect – are the similarities in patterns of interactional scaffolding that emerge from a comparison of the three cases.


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