, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 41-69
Date: 31 Oct 2009

Rich inflection and the production of finite verbs in child language

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Abstract

Children acquiring languages with rich inflection produce verbal morphology earlier in development than those learning languages with more impoverished inflection. In this paper, I present data from bilingual children acquiring Basque and Spanish, two null-subject languages with rich morphology which show a lead-lag pattern in the acquisition of inflection. Verbal inflection appears earlier in Spanish than in Basque, and although children produce few root infinitives in either language, they produce fewer in Spanish than in Basque. This is surprising, given that Basque has even “richer” verbal inflection than Spanish insofar as Basque has more obligatory morphological distinctions than Spanish does. These results lead me to propose that a combination of factors facilitate the early emergence of inflection in languages such as Spanish, including nominative/accusative case marking as well as morphological complexity, rather than solely the richness of the verbal paradigm.