Finiteness in children and adults learning Dutch
This paper deals with the acquisition of finiteness in children acquiring Dutch as their first language and adults acquiring Dutch as their second language. The authors distinguish between the semantic concept of finiteness and its morpho-syntactic marking. Given that utterances are used to express illocutionary force, they argue that finiteness is the carrier of the pragmatic function of assertion. As such it relates the descriptive content of an utterance to its topic component. It is shown that for the expression of finiteness child and adult learners rely on this pragmatic function of assertion at subsequent stages of acquisition. At the so-called Conceptual Ordering Stage, i.e. before target-adequate morphological markings become productive, learners establish the assertive relation by a closed class of linking elements which contains elements expressing positive or negative assertion, modal phrases and scope particles. At the Finite Linking Stage assertion marking grammaticalizes. Elements of the target functional category of auxiliaries come to be used as a grammatical linking device whereas scope particles and other target adverbial elements do no longer occur as independent linking elements. While the illocutionary linking elements of the Conceptual Ordering Stage are adjuncts, auxiliary verbs are part of a functional category system. As is the case in the target language, they function as the head of a head-complement structure at the Finite Linking Stage.
KeywordsTarget Language Semantic Concept External Argument Illocutionary Force Auxiliary Verb
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