Information structure development: Evidence from the acquisition of word order in Russian and English

  • Marina Dyakonova Department of Theoretical Linguistics, ACLC, University of Amsterdam
Keywords: information structure, word order, specificity, language acquisition, Russian language, English language, child language


The present paper aims at shedding some light onto the nature of the early child grammar. It is claimed that children do not operate with pure syntactic structures but also have access to pragmatics. On the basis of word order acquisition in Russian and English it is shown that from early on children resort to various strategies to encode information structure. Children acquiring Russian, a language that allows for structural encoding of Topic and Focus, make wide use of pragmatically marked word orders. Speakers of English, a highly configurational language, find other ways to mark information status of constituents, e.g. by means of Topic drop.

The results of the study suggest that different grammatical modules, syntax and pragmatics in the particular case, are acquired in a parallel rather than consecutive fashion.