The Effects of Animacy and Givenness on Object Order in Croatian Child Language

This study investigates how givenness and animacy influence object order (IO-DO vs. DO-IO) in ditransitive constructions in Croatian child language. We have conducted an elicitation task with 59 monolingual Croatian children (mean age=4;4) and 36 adult controls (mean age=21), in which the participants were asked to describe images depicting ditransitive actions. These actions differed with regard to givenness (DO given, or IO given) and animacy (IO animate, or both IO and DO animate). Both groups demonstrated an animacy effect, as the preference for DO-IO significantly increased when both objects were animate, compared to when only the IO was animate, with adults showing the highest preference. A givenness effect, however, was found only when the DO was given. The children exhibited a new>given preference when only the IO was animate, but, when both objects were animate, there was an indication of given>new. We conclude that adults prefer the DO-IO order, and children are strongly influenced by animacy.