Learning the passive in natural(istic) settings Katie Alcock,

Learning the passive in natural(istic) settings Katie Alcock,

Learning the passive in natural(istic) settings Katie Alcock, Ken Rimba, Manizha Tellaie, and Charles Newton Thanks to Kamil ud Deen Learning language: passives Jack ate the ice-cream The ice-cream was eaten by Jack Learned very late in English & other languages e.g. Hebrew Different explanations - passive

Maturation: Borer & Wexler (1987), Hebrew & English passives At a certain point in childhood, particular parts of grammar come online Passive at age 6 years Differential maturation for adjectival and verbal passive it is broken vs. John was kissed Clues from other languages Early passive acquisition Bantu languages e.g. Sesotho Demuth (1989)

Inuktitut - Crago & Allen (1996) Frequency? many more passives in these languages Function of passive e.g. for wh- questions Sesotho cant say who cooked the food?, must say the food was cooked by who? Easier construction in Inuktitut passive agrees only with grammatical subject while actives agree with both subject and object

Study 1 Bantu languages Two Eastern Bantu languages Kiswahili (2 dialects) Kigiriama Complex morphophonemics: Affixes to indicate passive among other things ni-lipigwa 1Spast hit passive I was hit

Passive not used for wh- questions obligatorily Some use but optional Passives, like in Inuktitut, agree with grammatical subject Actives also with grammatical object, especially if it is a person Passive very frequent in input Study 1 - Data collection and sources

Recording of spontaneous speech samples Children in own homes Caregivers recorded Three language groups coastal Kiswahili, Nairobi Kiswahili (distinct dialect), Kigiriama (coastal)

13 children in total Nairobi children 1-11 data points per child Coastal children 1 data point per child Ages 1:9 to 3:3 Data analysis Transcription of all child and adult speech Coastal data - 10% checked by 2nd transcriber Analysis of use of verbs and passives On all verbs not just where obligatory Adults as well as children

Deen data All examples of passive in children including which dated sample they appear in Proportions for adults do not have dated sample Some examples of active verbs (in thesis text) Analysis Childrens linguistic maturity

Age MLU morphemes? Words? Verbal ratio Longest utterance Productive use Bates et al. (1988) definition Results Proportion of verbs in passive = 0 to 19% by child

No sig. difference between languages Youngest productive use 1;10 ye lipigwa / -taipiga (he was beaten / [he] will beat) Correlation with age n.s. Ditto with all measures of linguistic maturity Significant correlation with input proportion of passives Language differences Passives by language 0.10

0.08 0.06 0.04 0.02 0.00 Kiswahili (Coast) Kigiriama Kiswahili (Nairobi) Language group

Child differences Passives in input and output 0.20 0.15 0.10 0.05 0.00 0.00 0.05 0.10

Passives output 0.15 0.20 Summary so far Passive use early in 2 languages (3 dialects) Structure similar to southern Bantu languages Frequency also similar Some differences in usage

Frequency of input crucial Naturalistic exposure in English English-speaking children learn passives in experimental situation (Brooks & Tomasello, 1999) Our study exposure to passives in home setting not just input by linguists or experimenters Hypotheses Naturalistic exposure to passive will lead to production of passive

Even in very young children Will be some transfer to material never heard in passive Will be no overall effect on productive language Focus of question will also affect production of passives Methods Exposure Two books of similar length Suitable stories written Passivised as many verbs as possible Story A Jack (zoo story) 19 pictures, 17 with reversible verbs

Story B Puss (animal story) 18 pictures, all with reversible verbs Parents asked to read book once a day for a week Four conditions Active-Active, Active-Passive, Passive-Active, PassivePassive Methods Testing Both books tested in lab Children asked questions Agent-focussed: whats Jack doing? Patient-focussed: whats happening to the box? or Neutral: whats happening here?

1/3 each, allocated to each book Books reviewed in same order though do not know order of reading at home Children then asked to tell story in own words Very little speech produced so not analysed Participants 40 children aged 29-38 mo 21 boys, 19 girls All from N. and E. London, recruited through local nurseries

All solely English-speaking families Results Age no correlation with verbs/passives Verbal ratio correlates with passives No effect on number of utterances or on verbal ratio, however More passives following exposure to passive Group and book differences Group and book effects 0.8

Book A Book B 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0 Group Effect of book (A vs B) Book B always tested second so had heard patient-focussed questions even if no passive

story. Interaction between condition and book Active A-Passive B children produce more passives on their trained book than Passive A-Active B Have heard more patient-focussed questions by the time they get to testing on book B But Passive A-Active B children produce more passives on non-trained book Have produced more passives themselves when reach book B Types of questions and passives Patient-focused questions = more passives produced

But no effect on number of utterances or verbs Interaction with condition But only because floor effect in A-A group Some children who never heard passives before produce a few in response to patient-focussed questions Types of passives: full vs. truncated vs. attempts No interaction either between condition and proportion of types of

passives when include A-A Interaction for other 3 conditions P-P produce more full passives and fewer truncated Conclusions Hearing passives at home makes children produce them in the lab Does not only apply to sentences they originally heard in passive Although effect is stronger for these verbs And effect increases through testing session Discussion

Input is important Structure in Bantu languages helps? Very difficult to quantify how relatively difficult particular constructions are for children hearing different languages

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