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The Relative Marker and Long Distance Dependencies in the L2 Acquisition of Swahili Relative Clauses
Jamie A. Thomas
36-52 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Recent studies in relative clause acquisition have identified a need for investigations of the roles of morphology and pro-drop. A richly agglutinative language, Swahili maintains 3 different strategies for relativization of subjects or direct objects, each of which integrates a bi-morphemic relative marker on either the overt complementizer amba- or the verb. Though measures of both structural and linear distance predict the Swahili subject amba- relative to be easier to comprehend, neither account is able to distinguish the three relativization strategies from one another. Beyond measures of long distance, a morphologically motivated analysis based on the inflectional stem hypothesis (Barrett-Keach, 1986) provides a more detailed picture of contributing linguistic factors. Results of a picture-selection task, acceptability judgment test, and grammaticality judgment test suggest the tense marker to be an indispensable slot on the verb for second language learners, making the amba- and tensed relatives preferred to the tenseless relative. These data provide an important first step in understanding how learners conceptualize verbs and relative clauses in Swahili.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics Today
edited by Eyamba G. Bokamba, Ryan K. Shosted, and Bezza Tesfaw Ayalew
Table of contents
Printed edition: $290.00