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William McClure

Committee Members

Martin Chodorow

Janet Fodor

Helen Smith-Cairns

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This dissertation is a comprehensive examination of L1 Japanese particle acquisition using two sets of corpora of naturalistic speech, JCHAT, longitudinal speech data of three Japanese children and the mothers (Miyata 2004a, b, and c, and MacWhinney 2000), and CHJ, adult-to-adult telephone conversation. The analysis reveals that despite differences in their language environment, all three children complete particle acquisition around MLU (m) 3.00 regardless of differences in the threshold of particle use. Further, none of the three children mimicked their mother's frequency of particle use, even as they all conform to a particular sequence of particle acquisition. The first set of particles that appear in children's utterances are speech acts related particles, basic Sentence Final Particles (such as -ne and -yo) and the nominative marker -ga and topic marker -wa. Under Fiengo and McClure's (2002) adaptation of Austin's (1953) Speech Act Theory, -ga and -wa are viewed as pragmatic "direction of fit" indicators. The data reveals that although both -ga and -wa can mark the subject of a sentence, children initially hypothesize an association between -ga and -wa and certain kinds of speech acts. Specifically, -ga is linked to statements and -wa to questions. The remaining particles (such as case markers, -o and -ni, and other particles, -ni, -de, -kara, and -made) appear after -ga and -wa in accordance with the development of cognitive ability, memory, lexicon, and syntax. Two trends were found in the general acquisition sequence of these particles: (i) mono-syllabic particles are learned earlier (more specifically, particles such as -to and -mo that form complex NPs precede case markers and postpositions, which are more complex because they convey relational functions within the sentence) than di-syllabic particles and (ii) for ambiguous particles such as -ni and -kara, concrete usages are acquired before conceptually abstract ones.


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