Chapter published in:Studies in Turkish as a Heritage Language
Edited by Fatih Bayram
[Studies in Bilingualism 60] 2020
► pp. 155–204
Subordination in children acquiring Turkish as a heritage language in Sweden
This paper investigates Turkish subordinate constructions in 201 fictional narratives told by 102 bilingual Turkish-Swedish children (age 4 to 7), growing up in Sweden with Turkish as a heritage language. All narratives were elicited with the picture sequences of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN, Gagarina et al., 2012). We analyze the characteristics of the Turkish relative, complement and adverbial clauses in the children’s narratives and in their responses to story comprehension questions from quantitative and qualitative points of view. The children produce a wide variety of subordinate constructions, going beyond what is typically reported for Turkish heritage language acquisition elsewhere. In the cross-sectional data sampled, there is considerable individual variation concerning subordination, but relatively little development from age 4 to 7, as some of the youngest children already master Turkish nonfinite subordination, and older children do not necessarily use subordination more frequently or in more adultlike ways than younger ones. Certain types of subordination are rare (e.g. relativization) or even absent in the data (complementation with object control). Other types of subordinate constructions are very frequent and nearly always conform to standard adult Turkish (e.g. complementation with subject control; adverbialization with simple converbs). However, the precise morphological form and function of subjunctors in causal and purposive adverbial clauses (an aspect rarely discussed in the Turkish acquisition literature) is not yet mastered by the oldest children in the sample (age 7). In general, the Turkish-Swedish data point to relatively successful and early acquisition of nonfinite subordination morphology, unlike what has been reported by a number of earlier studies of children acquiring Turkish in a bilingual and/or heritage language context in other countries (e.g. Boeschoten, 1990; Pfaff, 1991, 1993; Aarssen 2001; Herkenrath & Karakoç, 2002; Rehbein & Herkenrath, 2015). Our finding that bilingual children acquiring Turkish are able to produce much more complex sentences than originally claimed in the literature is suggested to be due to differences in setting, sampling and data elicitation.
Keywords: Turkish-Swedish bilingualism, child language acquisition, subordination, causal clauses, purposive clauses
Published online: 18 November 2020
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