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Original scientific paper

Maja Kelić, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., SUVAG Polyclinic for the Rehabilitation of Listening and Speech

Wolfgang U. Dressler, e-mail, Working Group “Comparative Psycholinguistics” , Dept. of Linguistics, Vienna University, Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, Austrian Academy of Sciences


We study first language acquisition of Croatian morphonotactic vs. phonotactic word–initial consonant clusters. Morphonotactic clusters cross a morpheme boundary, such as /sl/ in s+ložiti ‘ to arrange’, whereas phonotactic clusters occur within a morpheme, as in slad+o+led ‘ice–cream’. With a new method we show that, similarly to equally morphology–rich Polish and Lithuanian, the three investigated Croatian children acquire morphonotactic clusters earlier than homophonous phonotactic clusters. We also study preferences of double and triple word–initial consonant clusters via the concept of Net Auditory Distance (NAD), never before used for Croatian, with partially unexpected results. When dealing for the first time in studies of (mor)phonotactic development with the rise of cluster complexity, we will show that morphonotactics creates new complexity. Since children do not learn directly the target language, as represented in grammars, dictionaries and electronic corpora of written or oral adult language, we compare the development of child speech (CS) systematically with the children’s language input, i.e. child–directed speech (CDS) of their caretakers. In this way, we can achieve a higher degree of ecological validity than with formal transversal tests. The three longitudinal corpora of spontaneous interaction between a child and a caretaker (Croatian Corpus of Child Language, Kovačević 2002) have been recorded, transcribed and coded according to the methodologies of the international project CHILDES and the Crosslinguistic Project on Pre– and Protomorphology in Language Acquisition headed by the second author. Th e results are compared with those of the acquisition of morphonotactic vs. phonotactic clusters by Polish children. Diverging results are due to structural diff erences between these two Slavic languages.


 fi rst–language acquisition, morphonotactics, phonotactics, child corpora, Net Auditory Distance (NAD), Croatian language

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