The Acquisition of Ergativity in Georgian
Morphosyntactic systems with ergative-absolutive alignment are thought to be more challenging to acquire (as compared to nominative–accusative alignment), because they propose two morphological markers for a subject. Thus, to become a proficient speaker, a child needs to set a link between semantic role and syntactic role in a sentence. We aim to study the acquisition of ergativity in Georgian.
Georgian is a split ergativity language (a verb in the aorist screeve requires its arguments to be marked by an ergative pattern while the other screeves trigger nominative-accusative marking) and exhibits active alignment (subject of intransitive active verbs is marked with the ergative). We assume that the complex morphosyntactic system of Georgian is not acquired simultaneously, and our study aims at revealing the stages of the acquisition. Two experiments are planned in 4-6-year old children: one with the elicited production task and one eye-tracking comprehension experiment in the Visual-world paradigm.
The production experiment will use picture description and will investigate how accurate and fast children are in producing short sentences with transitive and medial verbs in the aorist and future screeves.
The comprehension experiment will study how children interpret the ergative marking of a subject: whether it is more likely to indicate the subject of a situation with a transitive verb or with a medial verb.
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