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Ergative case-marking in Hindi child-caregiver speech

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Abstract

In the split-ergative pattern of case-marking in Hindi, the A-role argument typically receives ergative marking with verbs that have perfective inflection. Longitudinal data from three children acquiring Hindi (ranging in age between 1;5–3;2) and their caregivers reveal that ergative case-marking is produced infrequently. Since ellipsis of A-role arguments is rampant and children and adults rarely talk about completed events in the past, the conditions requiring the production of ergative case do not often occur. Nevertheless, children acquire the split-ergative case-marking system with little difficulty. In doing so, they may rely on multiple probabilistic cues to verb transitivity and grammatical aspect in the input: the perfective morpheme, the presence of overt O-role arguments, and the use of specific light verbs.

References

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