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This chapter will show how Korean children acquire the grammatical functions of case markers, by examining their systematic utterances from longitudinal and experimental data. First, we will consider the developmental sequence in the acquisition of case markers, focusing on the opposition of nominative and accusative case. Second, we will investigate what strategies children employ to learn the case-marking system in production and comprehension. Third, we will examine from the experimental data how a child indicates grammatical functions of each noun phrase in the early stages of language development, especially where case markers and word order show a contradiction for grammatical roles. Finally, we will account for the mechanisms for acquiring grammatical functions and describe their developmental changes. It will be suggested that Korean children rely on word order prior to case markers for grammatical functions, not because of the fixed word order strategy, but because of the input to which they are exposed.
Languages make use of various devices to indicate grammatical relations of linguistic elements. Some languages rely on word order while others on inflection or case markers to identify grammatical functions of nouns. It is the task of children to determine which device the language they learn employs. Slobin (1966) claimed the primacy of word order as a language acquisition principle: Russian children used fixed word order even though the input language exhibits a range of word orders.
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