Ditransitive structures involve a certain degree of complexity because they require a verb and three arguments: agent, recipient, and theme. In free word order languages, such as Croatian all combinations of (S)ubject, (V)erb, and (O)bjects order are attested (Siewierska, 1998). This can pose some challenges for the language-acquiring child since the word orders are governed by pragmatic factors such as animacy, givenness, pronominality, weight, focus, and others. In this paper, I will be focusing on how Croatian children acquire ditransitive structures and their word order permutations and how animacy and accessibility affect word order in these structures.
The corpus data shows that children start by using the most frequent structure in the adult language: “Daj-(give-IMP) mi(me-CL) +DO-ACC". The corpus searches have established that it is not acquired as chunk since both 'daj' and 'me' are productive.
However, the naturalistic data analysed here was not suitable for investigating animacy and givenness because it did not provide the necessary contrasts: all IOs were animate and most of the DOs were is some way accessible. We nevertheless found, in the limited portion of NP-NP combinations of the child data, some instances of new>given order, which suggests that children sometimes fail to take the interlocutors perspective into account.