Learning animacy hierarchy effects in Bantu double object applicative constructions

Katherine Demuth, Malillo Machobane, Francina Moloi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Bantu languages differ in the order of objects permitted in double object applicative constructions. Although most place the Benefactive argument immediately after the verb, Sesotho places the animate argument immediately after the verb. In addition, Sesotho shows animacy hierarchy effects, with human objects preceding non-human animate objects. This paper reports on a study of how these word order restrictions are learned. Results from Sesotho-speaking 4-12-year-olds' performance on forced choice elicited production tasks finds robust evidence of animacy hierarchy effects by the age of 4, despite the fact that evidence for the animacy hierarchy is very limited in the input children actually hear. The paper explores the possible innate versus input explanations for how these word order restrictions are learned, and raises questions about the learning of syntactic word order restrictions in other Bantu languages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic Typology and Representation of African Languages
EditorsJohn Mugane
Place of PublicationTrenton, New Jersey
PublisherAfrica World Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)1592211542, 1592211550
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameTrends in African Linguistics
PublisherAfrican World Press


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