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The first language acquisition of nominal inflection in Northern East Cree: Possessives and nouns

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Title:The first language acquisition of nominal inflection in Northern East Cree: Possessives and nouns
Authors:Henke, Ryan
Contributors:Deen, Kamil U. (advisor)
Linguistics (department)
Date Issued:2020
Publisher:University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Abstract:This dissertation describes the first language (L1) acquisition of nominal inflection in Northern East Cree (NEC), a member of the Cree-Innu-Naskapi dialect complex within the Algonquian language family, which is spoken in four Eeyou Istchee communities in Northern Québec. The category of nominals includes nouns, demonstratives, and pronouns, where nouns inflect with templatic morphology involving one prefix and four suffix positions. This study focuses primarily upon nouns within possessive constructions, which entail the richest range of inflectional possibilities and mark multiple inflectional features of both possessees and possessors—including grammatical animacy, obviation, and number. This is the first dedicated study of the L1 acquisition of possessive marking within a polysynthetic language, and this dissertation aims to provide findings to inform linguistic science as well as community-centered efforts in L1 development and language revitalization.
Data come from the corpus of the Chisasibi Child Language Acquisition Study (CCLAS), a collection of naturalistic video recordings. These recordings represent the speech of three children—Ani (age 2;01.12–4;03.07), Daisy (3;08.10–5;10.02), and Billy (4;05.04–5;10.06)—as well as of one adult who interacts with each of the children.
This dissertation revolves around three primary research questions, which center on the characteristics of nominal inflection in child-directed speech; the expression of possession by children before they acquire the adult-like usage of nominal inflection; and the path of emergence for each templatic position and its morphological components over time. In answering these research questions, the chapters largely proceed along the inflectional template for NEC nouns, analyzing child-directed speech and then the speech of each child. After describing the overall landscape of the data, the examination turns to the prefix marking the person of the possessor; the possessive suffix; the suffixes marking a plural or obviative possessor; and the final affixal position, which can carry either a locative suffix or a multiple-exponence suffix marking interacting categories of animacy, obviation, and number.
Findings show that child-directed speech employs all of the affixal positions for nouns and all of their component morphemes, and although not all inflectional categories and values are equally represented, the input provides children with the necessary evidence to identify the presence, function, and distribution of all inflectional morphology. The youngest child begins expressing possession by omitting noun inflection, and she tends to use demonstratives instead of nouns as possessees. Each of the three children demonstrate different levels of productive usage with various inflectional morphemes, which is at least in some part attributable to differences in age as well as to the inter-child variability common in L1 acquisition. Child production may have some connections to patterns in the input, such as the frequency of word forms and inflectional morphemes, but the children also show a command of NEC inflection with English borrowings, which is a relatively uncommon pattern in the child-directed speech within the CCLAS corpus.
Pages/Duration:408 pages
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Linguistics

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