Edited by Valentina Vapnarsky and Edy Veneziano
[Studies in Language Companion Series 182] 2017
► pp. 443–466
The fact that ergative-absolutive inflectional morphology applies to nouns as well as to verbs in Yucatec Maya obscures the boundary between nouns and verbs, and makes it difficult for children to acquire the distinction between them. Acquisition is particularly difficult for the category of action nouns which can be used as either nouns or verbs in Yucatec. The analysis of the spontaneous speech of two Yucatec monolingual children from 1;9 to 2;3 shows that the most frequent action noun ‘play, toy’ is used as both a noun and a verb in the children’s corpus. The children preferred the nominal use of other action nouns when referring to concrete objects. The frequency of action noun use in the adult speech, the discourse context and rephrasing affected the children’s use of action nouns to different degrees. Research on the acquisition of language-specific lexical categories is essential to understanding how children acquire language.