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The Comparative Method of Language Acquisition Research$
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Clifton Pye

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226481289

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226481319.001.0001

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The Acquisition of Mayan Argument Structures

The Acquisition of Mayan Argument Structures

(p.206) Chapter Nine The Acquisition of Mayan Argument Structures
The Comparative Method of Language Acquisition Research

Clifton Pye

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines how children acquire argument structures in K'iche', Mam, and Ch'ol. Mayan languages differ from pro-drop languages in that they use ergative markers to cross-reference the subject of transitive verbs and absolutive markers to cross-reference the subject of intransitive verbs. The contrast between ergative and absolutive agreement implies that subject drop in Mayan languages results from two distinct agreement mechanisms. Subject drop with transitive verbs is licensed by ergative agreement, whereas subject drop with intransitive verbs is licensed by absolutive agreement. The conditions for argument omission vary from one Mayan language to another. The chapter compares children's argument omission in K'iche', Mam, and Ch'ol and shows that they produce relational noun phrases at very different frequencies in the three languages.

Keywords:   children, argument structure, Mayan languages, transitive verb, intransitive verb, ergative agreement, absolutive agreement, argument omission, relational noun phrase

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