The acquisition of pragmatic word order in Sesotho

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A description of the pragmatic functions of word order in the Bantu language, Sesotho, and of how children begin to produce them illustrates the developmental trends characterizing Sesotho-speaking children's learning of different word orders. Itsupports findings from previous language acquisition studies that have indicated that children tend initially to encode comment relations and assume topic relations. Such usage is evidenced by children's initial use of focused constructions almost to the exclusion of unfocused constructions, even when communication breakdowns occur. Except for the case of simple identity questions,children near two years use alternative/strategies of repetition of the same utterances, increased prosody, no-verbal cues, and the addition or deletion of information in attempt to effect listener comprehension. Passive and cleft construction, while both used independently by two and a half years, are not used jointly to indicate shifts of focus until three years or more. At two and a half years, right dislocated constructions are very prominent, becoming a preferred discourse form in intransitive constructions when subjects are known. However, topicalization does not become productive until well after three years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings from the 23rd Conference on Language Development
Place of PublicationStanford University, Stanford
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes


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