Patterns of Cree preverb usage in early child language: a longitudinal case study

Oney, Burak (2021) Patterns of Cree preverb usage in early child language: a longitudinal case study. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis offers a preliminary investigation into the acquisition of a class of morpheme called “preverb” in Northern East (NE) Cree (Central Algonquian, ISO 639-3 code crl), for one child code-named “Daisy”, acquiring NE Cree as a first language. Daisy is one of three participants who were filmed for the Chisasibi Child Language Acquisition Study (CCLAS), which is the first in-depth longitudinal acquisition project of an Algonquian language. Her language development was documented for 27 months with 32 sessions (3;08.10 – 5;11.25), and for this research, of 32 sessions present, 11 of them were considered. This is the second study on preverb acquisition in the literature, and the first in depth case study of Daisy’s acquisition of preverbs. The first study on preverb acquisition in NE Cree was conducted by Brittain & Rose (2021), in which they examined a younger child code-named Ani (2;01 to 4;03). They argue that Ani’s pattern of development suggests a learning path which is driven by grammatical complexity, as Ani’s preverb inventory consists only of what they refer to as “phonologically stable” forms (forms which do not alternate for initial change) and “positionally stable” forms (forms which can only occupy one position in the verb stem). Ani uses preverbs with the potentially more complex conjunct order seven months later than with the independent. Also, she does not combine preverbs even though it is quite common in the language, and she used each preverb in her inventory with one inflection type only, even where a choice of inflections was available. My research revolves around these findings, and in addition to this, in order to see a sample of preverb usage in child-directed speech (CDS), one session of the adult input was considered. Findings show Daisy using even the supposedly more challenging forms (as argued for by Brittain & Rose) from the earliest session (at age 3;08). Moreover, based on the research questions examined in this thesis, no pattern of acquisitional development emerged in Daisy’s usage of preverbs, contrasting with findings for Ani. Crucially, Daisy’s pattern of preverb production resembles more closely that of the adult as represented by the CDS: both speakers pair preverbs more frequently with the conjunct than with the independent; both frequently use combinations of two and sometimes three preverbs; and, where a given preverb allows combining with more than one type of inflection, both Daisy and the adult use varieties of inflection. Brittain & Rose found that Ani never uses initial change with preverbs, while Daisy and the adult both do, but with relatively few preverb types. Additionally, the most frequent types of preverbs in Daisy’s speech are also the most common ones in the adult input, and similarly, the least frequent ones are not present in the CDS.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15119
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 147-154).
Keywords: preverb, acquisition, polysynthetic, Cree, Algonquian
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Linguistics
Date: August 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Cree language--Morphemics--Case studies; Cree children--Language.

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