The study on first language acquisition is always a delight. Programme:. Overview of the system of inflectional morphology of Estonian
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To understand how and to what extent the structure of language itself can influence the acquisition course and speed.
”The richer inflection is in the input, the more stimulated children are to develop inflection in this domain, and the more rapid is development” (Dressler et al. 2007: 69).
Children acquiring an agglutinating language develop the inflectional system most rapidly (Laaha & Gillis 2007).When do Estonian children start to acquire morphology?
Estonian children start to acquire morphology after age 1;2 and before age 2;0.
The first productive forms of the oblique case of the noun appear in the speech of the Estonian child as early as at the age of 1;7, (partitives); the first verb forms (simple present, simple past) become productive somewhat later, at the age of 1;9.
When the stem is subject to gradation it will occur in strong or weak forms in different grades; in the case of a change concerning the final phoneme there will be different final phonemes in different case forms (Erelt et al. 1995: 130).
...the gradation can be considered to be a language-specific factor that might hamper the acquisition of the inflectional system because in the case of gradational words a child has to select a suitable stem shape in addition to a suitable suffix.
There are a lot of frequent words with grade alternation in the input, but gradation is sometimes avoided in child-directed speech by numerous diminutive derivatives where a non-gradational word has been derived from an originally gradational word:
koer ‘dog’ > kutsu ‘doggy’; kass ‘cat’ > kiisu ‘kitten’.At first sight...
...Estonian children acquire quantity alternation at an early age and use it to distinguish between two case forms already during the stage when they have not acquired the case suffixes.
For example, functional oppositions of
1) genitivepiti (=pildi) 'picture' Q2 and the partitivepi`tti (=pilti) Q3 (1;8)
2) illative na`nni (=vanni) ‘(into) bath’ Q3 and nanni- (=vannis) ‘(in) bath’ Q2;
linna ‘into town’Q3 and li`nna ‘in town’ Q2 (1;8).
Functional oppositions for expressing important semantic roles like direction and location or possessor and object.But...
No overgeneralizations and errors in the acquisition of grade alternation were found, only few errors appeared in case forms with quality alternation; e.g. *nuga-ga 'knife-COM' instead of noa-ga, käsi-ga 'hand-COM' instead of käe-ga.
The functionality of a phenomenon plays the most significant role in the acquisition of grade alternation, that is, if a word form in a weak or strong quantity distinguishes important grammatical meanings (without making words longer than 2 syllables!) and if grade alternation is also frequent, that is, it occurs in those words that are most frequent in child-directed speech, then such a phenomenon is acquired early and withouterrors.Almost errorless acquisition of gradation
There is some evidence that agglutinating formation can be acquired more easily than fusional formation technique not only in general, but also within one language because of its transparency.
For example: tüdruku-te-ga 'girl-Pl-COM'
The acquisition of a morphological system is easier if inflectional markers in a word form are ordered so that each suffix corresponds to a specific grammatical category; in case a suffix carries several grammatical meanings, it is more difficult to acquire the inflected form (see Voeikova 2002).
For example, it can be supposed that it would be easier to acquire the agglutinating partitive form tüdruku-i-d 'girl-PL-PRTV'
than the form maja-sid 'house:PL.PRTV' where partitive and plural are mixed into one suffix.
It is possible to use different formation techniques for a partitive plural:
1) the fusional stem plural: maja (house:NOM) > maju (house:PL:PRTV)
2) form with the cumulative formative, the sid-marker: maja-sid (house-PL:PRTV)
3) agglutinating i-plural forms: raamat (book:NOM) > raamatu-i-d (book-PL-PRTV).
1. First partitive plural form lilli ‘flowers’ was the fusional stem plural, at the age of 1;8, fusional formation productively used at age 2;0.
2. The fusional sid-formative, maja-sid ‘house-PL:PRTV’, patarei-sid ‘batterie- PL:PRTV’ at the age of 2;0, productively used at 2;0.
3. The agglutinating i-formative appeared at age 2;0, katule-i-d ‘potato-PL-PRTV’), the use of the i-plural productive only at 2;4.
1. Lexical patterns:
First partitive plural nouns occurred often in a quantifier construction (paljuloomi ‘a lot of animals’).
2. Phonological factors:
a) Trochaic stage - the speech of an Estonian child consists of less than 10% words which are longer than 2 syllables at age 2;0. Towards the end of the trochaic stage, from 2;0 the child begins to use also sid-marked andagglutinating i-plural forms, which make the words longer than two syllables.
b) Inability to pronounce a closed non-initial syllable - no words with closed non-initial syllables were found before the age of 2;0.
3. Inputfrequency: 60% of the partitive plural forms in child-directed speech represent fusional formation.
In the case of the stem plural the plural differs from the singular only by the stem vowel.
On the one hand, it is easy to make a distinction between the singular and the plural because the plural form has a different final vowel, on the other hand, the conditions of vowel alternations complicate matters.
A child does not acquire all inflectional patterns at once; rather at first (s)he picks up those words in child-directed speech that belong only to certain (extremely productive) inflectional types:
preferred inflectional types are highly frequent inflectional types in the input language and productive and open types. For example the type with monosyllabic gradational words with weakening stems, model word sepp ‘blacksmith’), e.g. poeg ‘son’, lill ‘flower’, klots ‘block’.Abundance of inflectional types and patterns and the speed of acquisition of morphology II
“The number of cases in a language does not play a special role at the early stage of acquisition because a child does not acquire all the cases at a time but only the core at first” (Voeikova 2002: 34–37)Rate of the acquisition of case
Estonian has a comparatively small core tense system. In traditional grammars of Estonian language, four tenses are distinguished.
Estonian has no morphological form for the future, which is expressed with present tense form and by some kind of lexical means.
Future in Estonian miniparadigms
Production: miniparadigmsTenses used
Similarly to the other Finno-Ugric languages, the aspect in Estonian has not developed into a consistent grammatical category. The aspect can be expressed by means of progressive and resultative constructions (mostly with adverbs and verb particles) as well as by the case alternation of the object.
The case alternation of the object is a manifestation of the aspect expressed by grammatical means in Estonian. It is the most regular means of expressing the aspect in Estonian.Aspect: some general remarks
...is determined: Estonian has not developed into a consistent grammatical category. The aspect can be expressed by means of progressive and resultative constructions (mostly with adverbs and verb particles) as well as by the case alternation of the object.
1) by the perfectivity or imperfectivity of the action and,
2) by the quantitative boundedness or non-boundedness of the object item.
The totalobject (object in the genitive or the nominative) is used when both the action and the object item are bounded, and the partial object (object in the partitive case) is used when the action, object item, or both are unbounded (Erelt et al. 1995: 51–52; Tamm 2004: 29).
Thus, the Estonian object may occur in three grammatical cases:
the partial object in the partitive,
and the total object in the genitive (singular) and the nominative.The choice of the object case...
Case alternation is a very difficult part of Estonian grammar for learners of Estonian as a second language. - is it difficult also for children?
When do Estonian children acquire case alternation?
Would it be easier in certain kinds of situations or not?What was my question?