Verb inflection in Muhammed’s narratives
Turning to Muhammed’s development in the domain of verb inflection we can see in Figure 4.6 (cf. also Table E.1 in Appendix E) that the relative frequency of verb inflection errors remains relatively high throughout the recording time covered in this study. Although it drops to a rate of 26 and 35% in files 2 and 4, the rate in the file 5 reaches 43.2%. Verb drop, too, as we remarked upon previously, remains a constant and a frequent phenomenon, the proportion of verbless clauses amounting to 17.5% in file 5.
Interestingly, a closer look at the type of errors produced reveals a change over time: the frequency of erroneous infinitives, predominating at the beginning of the recording (55.0%), drops to a rate of 12.2% in file 5, whereas the production of erroneously marked verb forms increases from 5.0% in file 1 to 27.3% in file 5. Looking at the type of errors classified here as “other” (that is, other than infinitives), it is interesting to note that many target-deviant forms result from remaining problems in participle formation. Deficits become apparent also regarding main verb inflection, although -t as a marker for 3rd person singular subjects is productive as of file 3. Example (462) shows that the imperative verb form is not mastered at this stage (the target form would be komm), and example (463) shows that the inflection of irregular verbs remains a task to be tackled by the end of the recording time (the target form would be nimmt).
Against this backdrop it is certainly remarkable that Muhammed’s inventory of verb forms includes imperfect verb forms (see examples (464)-(465)). It must be noted, however, that the choice of tense is not consistent throughout the narrative, with present, perfect and imperfect tense verb forms being used alternatively (apart from the infinitive forms). In some cases, various options occur within a complex clause. This is the case in examples (466)-(468). The alternation of finite and non-finite verb forms occurs in propositions following each other, as can be seen in (468), or perfect and imperfect tense forms are combined in complex clauses as in (466). Example (467) documents the (unclear) addition of the participle of the copula verb sein (‘to be’) at the end of the clause. The variation encountered raises the question of the status of verb inflection in Muhammed’s
learner grammar. Some errors might reflect a potential lack of attention during the writing process (e.g. the combination of finite and non-finite forms), many other errors, however, seem to result from a lack of differentiation of the different verb forms available.
Figure 4.6: Verb inflection errors and verb drop in Muhammed’s narratives.