Word order preferences of Tagalog-speaking adults and children

Rowena Garcia*, Jeruen E. Dery, Jens Roeser, Barbara Höhle

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    This article investigates the word order preferences of Tagalog-speaking adults and five- and seven-year-old children. The participants were asked to complete sentences to describe pictures depicting actions between two animate entities. Adults preferred agent-initial constructions in the patient voice but not in the agent voice, while the children produced mainly agent-initial constructions regardless of voice. This agent-initial preference, despite the lack of a close link between the agent and the subject in Tagalog, shows that this word order preference is not merely syntactically-driven (subject-initial preference). Additionally, the children’s agent-initial preference in the agent voice, contrary to the adults’ lack of preference, shows that children do not respect the subject-last principle of ordering Tagalog full noun phrases. These results suggest that language-specific optional features like a subject-last principle take longer to be acquired.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)617-640
    Number of pages24
    JournalFirst Language
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


    • child language acquisition
    • sentence production
    • Tagalog acquisition
    • voice
    • word order


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