Strategies in the L1-acquisition of predication: The copula construction in German and Croatian
Languages differ with respect to the appearance of a copula in (primary) predication structures: Languages like English, German and Croatian require the copula to be always overt, other languages like Hebrew and Russian do not express the copula in present tense contexts. Our comparative discussion of the acquisition of the copular construction in German and Croatian includes any occurrence of the verb to be (German sein, Croatian biti) together with a non-verbal main predicate. The copula is a purely grammatical device, expressing tense and agreement features. Like other grammatical categories it is often omitted in early child language; cf. Bloom (1970); Brown (1973); Radford (1990). In her study on the acquisition of the English copula, Becker (2000a, 2000b) suggests that copula omission is related to the so-called root infinitive phenomenon in English. Furthermore, she finds a connection between copula omission and the kind of predicate involved. We present new data from two German children (from 2;3 to 2;9) showing that German shows a very similar pattern of copula omission as English. But we find some differences between copulaless predication and the target-like copular construction that cannot be explained by simply adapting Becker’s analysis for German. Just like English, German is classified as a root infinitive language; cf. e.g., Poeppel and Wexler (1993). In contrast to English and German, root infinitives have not been observed for early Croatian (cf. e.g., Katičić 1997, 2000). Our discussion of new data from one Croatian child (1;7 to 2;1) completes the picture: Copula omission does not occur at all. The hypothesized connection between root infinitives and copula omission is corroborated.
KeywordsWord Order Predication Structure Main Clause Small Clause Bare Noun
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