The Case of Polish Children in Sweden
Chapter 9 Some remarks on mechanisms for the acquisition of case
In the foregoing discussion of the different types of error in the use of case, I have been trying to indicate their potential psycholinguistic sources. The material analysed shows that the acquisition/attrition of case under conditions of linguistic interference is determined by functional factors. The relations of functional markedness, which determine the internal structure of grammatical categories, play a pivotal role here. This applies to the relations of morphological markedness within the case system, as well as to the degree of syntactic markedness of the different syntactic rules and to the valence properties of lexemes. The most important mechanism at work here is that the difficulties in the acquisition of a given linguistic unit (construction) are directly proportional to the degree of its functional markedness: units/constructions with a greater degree of markedness (e.g. the locative or the syntactic rule of the genitive after negation) are acquired by the child (as well as by an adult who learns a foreign language) later and with greater difficulties (or they are not acquired at all).
The above is, of course, particularly true of the category of case. It is again worth remembering that the defective idiolect case systems attested in the speech of the Polish children in Sweden may be regarded as representing different phases of the acquisition of case by an individual. As already indicated, the two hierarchy patterns of the acquisition of case by children in a diaspora (the arrows indicate a decreasing level of case mastery):
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