Chapter 6. A typological approach to first language acquisition

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This paper will not simply be cross-linguistic, but typological, insofar as it refers to language types as constellations of typologically relevant linguistic properties. The general hypothesis is that children are sensitive to typological properties of the language they acquire, i.e. they are sensitive to the relative communicative importance and structure of linguistic patterns in their verbal interactions. This paper will focus on morphology as the backbone of holisic language typology. The data discussed will come especially from the collaborative results of the international “Cross-linguistic Project on Pre- and Protomorphology in Language Acquisition”. The paper will concentrate on early phases of language acquisition and on inflectional morphology. The relevant properties are degree of morphological richness of a language, of transparency, uniformity and productivity. It is assumed that children will develop morphology faster, the richer the morphology is they are acquiring. They will also acquire transparent, uniform and productive patterns faster than opaque, non-uniform and unproductive ones. Among the three epistemological levels of typology, i.e. classificatory, ordering and quantitative typology, the paper will focus on the second level, where languages, and more precisely language subsystems, are ordered according to how closely they approach the ideal morphological types of, in our case, the agglutinating, the inflecting(-fusional) and the isolating type.


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