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Bookmark and Share Paper 3211

Passives and the "New Impersonal" Construction in Icelandic Language Acquisition
Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir and Iris Nowenstein
110-121 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

The New Impersonal transitive construction is a syntactic change currently underway in Icelandic. This paper reports the results of a study on Icelandic-speaking children's production of various types of passives as well as this syntactic innovation. Thirty elementary school children, age 6-9, were tested on two types of elicitation tasks (patient-focused versus action-focused) and on a forced choice judgment task. The study was designed to develop methods for eliciting both passives and the New Impersonal, and to shed light on the understudied question of whether the various types of passives and the New Impersonal are functionally equivalent or not. The results indicate a specialization of the two constructions: The New Impersonal is more often produced in action-focused contexts while canonical passives appear in patient-focused contexts. These findings have implications for the study of the evolutionary trajectory of syntactic change and yield insights into the language acquisition mechanism when syntactic variation exists in the input.

Published in

Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2015)
edited by Laurel Perkins, Rachel Dudley, Juliana Gerard, and Kasia Hitczenko
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00