The acquisition of Hungarian recursive PPs

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Ágnes Langó-Tóth


In this study an experiment is presented on how Hungarian children interpret two word orders of recursive PPs (subject-PP-verb and PP-subject-verb order). According to the research of Roeper (2011) and Hollebrandse and Roeper (2014), children tend to give conjunctive interpretation to multiple embedded sentences at the beginning of language acquisition. This interpretation later turns into an adult-like, recursive interpretation. Our aim is to discover (i) whether Hungarian children start with conjunction as well, and whether (ii) the apparently more salient functional head lévő appearing in Hungarian recursive PPs can help them to acquire the correct, recursive interpretation early. We also want to find out whether (iii) the word orders in recursive PPs have an influence on the acquisition of children. In this paper two experiments are presented conducted with 6 and 8-year-olds and adults, in which the participants were asked to choose between two pictures. One of the pictures depicted recursive and the other one depicted conjunctive interpretation of the given sentence. In the first experiment subject-PP-verb order was tested, but in the second one sentences were tested with PP-subject-verb order. We will claim that lévő, which is (arguably) a more salient Hungarian functional element than -i, does not help children to acquire the embedded reading of recursive sentences, because both of them are overt functional heads. However, the two types of word orders affect the acquisition of recursive PPs. PP-subject-verb order is easier to compute because the order of the elements in the sentences and the order of the elements in the pictures matches.


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Langó-Tóth, Ágnes. (2018). The acquisition of Hungarian recursive PPs. Yearbook of the Poznań Linguistic Meeting, 4(1), 105-123.


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