12:00 - 14:00
Dr Serge Sagna, University of York
Lectures, talks and seminars
Language and Linguistics Seminar Series
Language and Linguistics, Department of
Victoria Mead firstname.lastname@example.org
Current knowledge of the strategies used by children to acquire grammatical gender is mainly based on Indo-European languages. Studies that have investigated the acquisition of the typologically similar Niger Congo noun class systems, which have larger gender classes, have been carried out on Bantu languages. These studies focus mainly on nominal morphology; only a minority of them deal with agreement.
In this paper, I present a study investigating the acquisition of an Atlantic noun class system, with an analysis of the first transcribed recordings of four Eegimaa speaking children, aged 1;10, 2;1, 2;4 and 3;1, from a longitudinal study investigating syntactic and semantic agreement in Eegimaa (Atlantic; Niger Congo; southern Senegal). As is typical in Niger Congo noun class systems, all Eegimaa nouns are assigned to a class/gender based on agreement criteria.
The transcripts analysed here show signs of early productions of nominal class and agreement prefixes. However, the analysis suggests that children acquire stems and nominal class markers as parts of whole words (see Vihman, 1982, 2014) rather than separate affixes until after age 2;1. The use of noun class prefixes in the two older children is over 85% accurate, but there is still no evidence of productive use of gender and number feature values. At age 3;1, however, these initial data show clearer alternations of noun inflectional prefixes with stems, showing similarities with the stages of acquisition found in Bantu noun class systems (Demuth 1986, 2003, 2012). Demuth reported that overlapping stages of noun class acquisition include producing nouns a) without prefixes, b) with shadow prefixes, and c) with the correct prefix as per the adult language.