Subject, Topic and Sesotho Passive

Katherine Demuth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Counter to findings in English, German and Hebrew, recent acquisition studies have shown that the passive is acquired early in several non-Indo-European languages. In an attempt to explain this phenomenon, this paper addresses certain typological phenomena which influence the early acquisition of passives in Sesotho, a southern Bantu language. After outlining the structure of the Sesotho passive and its syntactic and discourse functions, I examine Sesotho-speaking children’s spontaneous use of passives, showing that the acquisition of passives in Sesotho is closely linked to the fact that Sesotho subjects must be discourse topics. I conclude that a detailed examination of how passive constructions interact with other components of a given linguistic system is critical for developing a coherent and universally applicable theory of how passives are acquired.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


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