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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Acquisition of Clitics in Croatian and Spanish and its Implications for Syntactic Theory Add Dissertation
Author: Andrea Carruthers Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Michigan, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2006
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax; Language Acquisition;
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Director(s): Samuel Epstein
Marilyn Shatz
Jindrich Toman

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the acquisition and the syntax of pronominal clitics in Croatian and Spanish, two languages that represent the distinction between second position (Wackernagel) and verb-adjacent (Tobler-Mussafia) clitics. It is proposed on the basis of both child and adult grammar that the same syntactic processes (in the case of pronominal clitics, verb movement) determine major aspects of clitic placement, and that surface differences (second position vs. verb-adjacent) can be attributed to independent, parameterized requirements.

I investigate in detail clitic acquisition in the two languages from the onset of clitic production (around age 1;8) until children reach adult-like mastery (at age 2;9, with above 90% of adult-like production). I analyzed naturalistic data from six children, three speakers of each Croatian and Spanish (from the CHILDES database). I considered all the production of pronominal and anaphoric clitics, focusing on general structural properties and language particular characteristics that affect the syntax of clitics in the two languages. I argue that the acquisition of cliticization in the two languages is very similar, in terms of its path and speed. This is indicated by the early acquisition, around the same age (2;0), of all the major complexities in the clitic system of both languages, with a very low rate of errors (average 8%).

I also evaluated several syntactic approaches to cliticization in Croatian and Spanish, comparing them regarding their success in accounting for clitic acquisition, focusing mainly on clitic placement. Given the results, I argue that clitic acquisition is to a large extent the same and results from the common properties determining cliticization in the two languages.

The most relevant property is the independently motivated parameter of verb movement. I further explore the possibility that the language particular differences in cliticization can be attributed to other parameterized properties, including possibly order of adjunction (yielding clitic-verb or verb-clitic order), a second-position, and a verb-adjacency parameter. I argued here that the overall properties of cliticization in child and adult grammar result from the application of linguistic principles and parameters that apply cross-linguistically, and are not exclusive to either of these two languages.