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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.

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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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