The Case of Polish Children in Sweden
Chapter 8 Acquisition of case by a bilingual child in the second year of life (a case study)
The foregoing discussion about the acquisition/attrition of the category of case is by no means exhaustive; it has only provided a description of the most general mechanisms underlying these processes. The observations made by El’konin (1973: 577–8) and by Gagarina & Voeikova (2009) pertaining to Russian, by Łuczyński (2004) for Polish, by Čević, Palmović & Hržica (2009) about Croat, and my own findings concerning the acquisition of case by a bilingual (Polish-Russian) child point to a very important characteristic of the mechanism of the gradual building of a case system by the child. The child does not successively master the uses of each case as a ready-made element of the system. Instead, each case is gradually mastered step by step and function by function, starting with the function that is most typical, or most central, for a given case. Thus, the functions of each case in the system are acquired gradually as the child is faced with the various possible contexts in which a particular case is used in adults’ utterances. To simplify the picture outlined by El’konin, the order in which a (monolingual Russian) child acquires the different functions of the cases can be represented as follows:
nominative → direct object accusative, partitive genitive
→ addressee-dative, instrumental expressing a tool and sociative instrumental (w/o preposition)
→ prepositional phrases denoting spatial relations (with, successively, genitive229, accusative, dative and locative)
→ genitive after negation, beneficiary dative, functions of instrumental other than expressing a tool...
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