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Locative terms and Warlpiri acquisition*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2009

Edith L. Bavin*
La Trobe University
Linguistics Department, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3083, Australia.


Cognitive complexity and complexity of linguistic structure have been found to influence the order of acquisition of locatives. In Warlpiri, locative terms are nominals and they are used in combination with a locative case marker on the reference object; directional affixes may be added to them. Data from a series of tests of Warlpiri children's comprehension and production of the Warlpiri expressions that may be translated as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘in front of’, ‘behind’ and ‘between’ indicate that the locative case forms are used first without the more specific locative nominals; young children distinguish an ‘up-down’ dimension but not ‘in’, and the reference object influences how the locative term is interpreted; kamparru-pirdangirli (‘front-behind’) is not one dimension for children aged four to five years; kulkurru ‘between’ is understood before kamparru ‘front’ and pirdangirli ‘behind’; the use of features on a reference object for orientation develops at around six, but the orientation of the reference object, as well as features on the placed object may affect interpretation.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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Preliminary versions of sections of the paper were given at the ALS meeting in Canberra, August 1987 and at a La Trobe seminar in October 1987. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for valuable criticism, and to the Yuendumu community for continued support and assistance. I thank, in particular, Kay Napaljarri Ross and Paddy Japaljarri Stewart for assisting with data collection. Initial funding for a long-term study of the acquisition of Warlpiri as a first language was provided to Bavin and Shopen by the Australian Research Grants Scheme and by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies; La Trobe University School of Humanities has been very generous in providing additional funding.


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