The use of word order alternates in Croatian ditransitives

The use of word order alternates in Croatian ditransitives: the role of animacy and givenness

In this talk, I discuss the usage of two grammatical alternates in relation to animacy and givenness of the referents. The examined structure are ditransitives in Croatian, in which both object orders are attested (IO-DO and DO-IO). The talk will go through a collection of four papers in which child language is the main focus, but the adult productions are also explored.

The methodology of this research consists of an investigation of child corpora (both child and child directed speech), an acceptability judgment task (only for adults), and two elicitation tasks. The results are compatible and will be discussed with a unified account.

The main finding of this collection of papers is that animacy strongly affects children’s choice of word order. The results show that IO-DO is more frequently attested in naturalistic data, in which the recipient is prototypically animate and the theme is inanimate. Conversely, the experimental studies reveal that when the two factors are neutralised, DO-IO is the preferred order (acceptability task) and it is also used more when animacy is balanced (elicitation task). I argue that this might be an indication of the underlying status of the DO-IO order in Croatian ditransitives. The results also reveal that, on the one hand, both adults and children are sensitive to animacy, but children are more sensitive to it. On the other hand, children are less sensitive to givenness than adults as they are not consistent in applying the given<new order, but nevertheless, this factor has an effect of the referring expressions of both children and adults as the given element is more likely to be expressed as clitic or omitted altogether.