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Learning How to License Null Noun-Class Prefixes in Sesotho

Katherine Demuth, 'Malillo Machobane and Francina Moloi
Language
Vol. 85, No. 4 (Dec., 2009), pp. 864-883
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40492956
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Learning How to License Null Noun-Class Prefixes in Sesotho
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Abstract

Noun-class prefixes are obligatory in most Bantu languages. However, the Sotho languages (Sesotho, Setswana, Sepedi) permit a subset of prefixes to be realized as null at the intersection of ' unmarked' phonological, syntactic, and discourse conditions. This raises the question of how and when the licensing of null prefixes is learned. Using longitudinal data from three Sesothospeaking children, this article shows that the conditions needed to license null prefixes have been learned before the age of three, suggesting early abilities for grammatical generalization even at the intersection of different levels of linguistic structure. The implications for learnability theory and Bantu linguistic structure more generally are discussed.

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