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Evolutionary Syntax

By Ljiljana Progovac

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The Making of Vernacular Singapore English

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Academic Paper

Title: A Cue-Based Approach to the Acquisition of Grammatical Gender in Russian
Author: Yulia Rodina
Institution: Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics, U Tromsø
Author: Marit Westergaard
Institution: Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics, U Tromsø
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Russian
Abstract: This article discusses the acquisition of gender in Russian, focusing on some exceptional subclasses of nouns that display a mismatch between semantics and morphology. Experimental results from twenty-five Russian-speaking monolinguals (age 2 ; 6–4 ; 0) are presented and, within a cue-based approach to language acquisition, we argue that children rely on certain morphosyntactic micro-cues in the course of acquisition of semantic agreement. A discrepancy is observed in the acquisition of semantic agreement across the different noun classes, and this suggests that children are highly sensitive to fine distinctions in syntax and morphology and use detailed input information to make specific inferences concerning the gender of different noun classes. Furthermore, we argue that acquisition data may provide a more accurate account of how gender assignment proceeds in the mind of a speaker than has been traditionally assumed by gender assignment theories.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 39, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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