The effects of discourse topic on global and local markers in Croatian ditransitives
This study investigates the impact that discourse topic has on (i) word order (global marking) and (ii) referring expression (local marking), in ditransitive structures in Croatian preschoolers and adult controls. According to general pragmatic principles, the discourse topic argument is expected to be placed before the rest of the sentence, thus complying with the (discourse) topic-comment order (Gundel 1988). The discourse topic argument is also more likely to be expressed with a clitic or omitted altogether (Gundel, Hedberg, and Zacharski 1993). We tested 58 monolingual Croatian children (mean age = 4;4) and 36 adult controls (mean age = 21) in three conditions with different discourse topics (subject, direct object and indirect object). The study consisted of an elicitation task aided by storybooks, with the targeted structures being ditransitives: either direct object-indirect object (DO-IO) or the indirect object-direct object order (IO-DO). The results reveal that, for adult speakers, discourse topic has an impact both on the choice of referring expressions and on word order (discourse topic-comment order), while for child speakers, the effect of discourse topic is limited to referring expressions, as the children use the IO–DO order 75% of the time regardless of discourse topic condition. This is in line with previous studies that find that children mark givenness/newness first on local and then on global markings (Hickmann, Hendriks, Roland, and Liang 1996; Mykhaylyk, Rodina, and Anderssen 2013; Anderssen, Rodina, Mykhaylyk, and Fikkert 2014). We also find that children are over-specific, as their use of NPs is higher than the adults’ use throughout the task (p.value = 0.0006347).
Source at http://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.529.