Argument Realization in Child Cree

How do native Cree-speaking children realize arguments in a language that allows extensive argument omission? In this project, together with Julie Brittain (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Director of CCLAS) and Sara Acton (University of Western Michigan), we are examining the developmental stages in realization of subjects and objects in Cree child and caregiver speech.

Subjects and objects of Cree sentences may be realized as agreement markers, personal pronouns, demonstratives, or lexical noun phrases, or they may be omitted. We aim to determine which forms of referential expression are most prevalent at each stage of development, and in which conditions. We also explore the trajectory that children follow in reaching adult norms of realizing arguments.

North East Cree is an Algonquian language spoken by some 14000 Cree in northern Quebec. Very little has been published about the acquisition of Cree (or any Algonquian language), although it is widely learned and spoken as a first language in Cree communities. In 2004, Julie Brittain and her collegues at Memorial University of Newfoundland began the Cree Child Language Acquisition Study (CCLAS with the goal of documenting the stages of Cree language acquisition from ages 1 through 6 years. We use this corpus for our research.

Representative Presentations
Brittain, J., Allen, S.E.M. & Acton, S. (2017). Preferred argument structure in Cree child and child-directed speech. Poster at 14th International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Lyon, France.
Brittain, J., Allen, S.E.M. & Acton, S. (2014). Argument realization in Northern East Cree child speech and child-directed speech. 19th Annual Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the  Languages of the Americas, St. John’s, NL.