The acquisition of Murrinh-Patha (Northern Australia)

William Forshaw, Lucinda Davidson, Barbara Kelly, Nordlinger Rachel, Gillian Wigglesworth, Joseph Blythe

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


This chapter reports on initial findings of an ongoing large-scale research project into the acquisition of Murrinhpatha, a polysynthetic language of the Daly River region of the Northern Territory of Australia with complex morphology. The complex verbal structures in Murrinhpatha, which can contain a large number of morphemes and bipartite stem morphology discontinuously distributed throughout the verbal template, raise a multitude of questions for acquisition. In this chapter we focus particularly on the acquisition of the complex predicate system in the verb, and the acquisition of subject-marking categories and tense/aspect/mood. Our findings are based on the language development of five Murrinhpatha acquiring children aged from 2;7–4;11 years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of polysynthesis
EditorsMichael Fortescue, Marianne Mithun, Nicholas Evans
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199683208
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • acquisition
  • polysynthesis
  • bipartite stem
  • complex verbs
  • language development

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