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The Acquisition of Verb Agreement in Hindi (talk recording available)

Dr. Ayesha Kidwai

Tuesday, September 08, 2015, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Jawaharlal Nehru University, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Centre for Linguistics

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This talk explores the theoretical implications of an elicited production study of the acquisition of Case marking[i] by 21 Delhi Hindi speaking children aged between 41 to 71 months. Our study demonstrates children make many more errors in the expression of sentential and than that of Case-marking. This talk focuses particularly on the (surprising) observation that children’s utterances showed a system of simultaneous agreement with both with the direct object (progressive auxiliary) and the subject (tense auxiliary), as in (1). Children’s utterances also departed from the adult grammar in accessing the features of overtly Case-marked noun phrases, as in (2).

(1)   raajaa  laRkii ko  gift de    rahii     thaa

       king    girl-DAT  gift give PROG  be.PST

       MSG    FSG        FSG       FSG     3MSG

       ‘The king was giving the gift to the girl 

(2)   raajaa  is laRkii ko     khiiNc rahii         hE

       king    this girl ACC  pull      PROG      be.PRES

       MSG  FSG                             FSG         3MSG

       ‘The king is pulling this girl’

We analyse the facts of children’s production of Hindi verb agreement to argue that even as children’s production respects the requirements of Baker's (2008) Structural Condition On Person Agreement (SCOPA) as stringently as the adult Hindi grammar does, the developing grammar carves out an additional subdomain for verb agreement at the vP level. Further, the children’s grammar differs from the adult one in failing to (as yet consistently) apply a second condition operative in the adult grammar,which we formulate as in (3):


(3) Overt Case-marking renders the phi-features of nominal phrases invisible to T and v Probes. 

Given that children almost never make the error of agreeing with ergative subjects, even though the ergative is overtly Case-marked, we suggest that the children proceed with a weaker version of (3) by which the relaxation is confined to v alone, rather than both T and v as in the adult grammar.

[i] Funded by a JNU/Essex Development Fund grant to study the ‘Acquisition of Hindi Case Marking’ conducted in Delhi-NCR (2013). The study employed a pair of picture-based elicited production tasks – Case Task and Possessives Task, developed by Ruigendijk, Eisenbeiss and others, which aimed to capture the use of overt case markers in transitive, ditransitive and possessive structures.

Dr. Ayesha Kidwai