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Academic Paper


Title: Object Agreement and Specificity in Early Swahili
Author: Kamil Ud Deen
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~kamil/
Institution: University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: Swahili
Abstract: Schaeffer (1997, 2000) argues that children lack knowledge of specificity because Dutch children omit determiners and fail to scramble pronouns. Avrutin & Brun (2001), however, find that Russian children place arguments correctly according to whether they are specific or non-specific. This paper investigates object agreement and specificity in early Swahili. Object agreement in Swahili is obligatory when the object is specific, but is prohibited when the object is non-specific. Analysis of naturalistic data from four Swahili-speaking children (1;8-3;2) reveals that children overwhelmingly provide object agreement in obligatory contexts (when the object is a personal name, is topicalized, or refers to first/second person). The supply of object agreement cannot be due to a general strategy of overusing agreement, since object agreement does not occur in prohibited contexts such as intransitive clauses. I conclude that object agreement and knowledge of specificity are acquired by Swahili children before the age of two years.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Journal of Child Language Vol. 33, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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