Verb inflection in Hamida’s narratives
Throughout the preceding sections we have had a closer look at verb placement and sentence structure in Hamida’s narratives. We have remarked upon several phenomena observed regarding verb placement, indicating also that verb inflection is characterised by variation between target-like and target-deviant forms. Interestingly, a detailed analysis of Hamida’s errors in the domain of verb inflection reveals that only a relatively small proportion results from the use of infinitive forms in the place of finite ones (in file 3, for example, only 5 of 16 errors produced involve the infinitive form). Rather, the greater part of Hamida’s errors involves the target-deviant use of the 3rd person singular verb form in constructions with conjoined subjects (compare example (609) and notice, incidentally, that erroneous word order and choice of the form sagen in the second part of the coordinated clause renders the sequence ambiguous concerning who’s actually bidding good-bye to whom, the boy and the dog to the frog or vice versa). At the same time, we also acknowledge that the alternate use of target-like and target-deviant forms still occurs in file 5, where we also observe the use of infinitive forms with verbs that appeared correctly in previous narratives. The verb fallen (‘to fall’) is a case in point (610).
Another type of error we already remarked upon pertains to the drop of the auxiliary in constructions with a past participle main verb form in sentence-final position, a phenomenon that appears as of file 3. Although the frequency of this phenomenon is low (in file 3, 3 out of 16, in file 4, 5 out of 18, and in file 5, 1 out of 10 errors produced), it might be taken as an indication, as we noted previously, that problems remain regarding the fixation of the IP headedness parameter. These problems are also reflected in those complex verb constructions in which main verb forms are combined with an erroneous auxiliary verb form. Example (611) indicates that the formation of the past participle of fallen (‘fall’) is not the only task that remains to be tackled as errors continue to occur in the marking of subject-verb agreement (the choice of the auxiliary forms sind (compare example (602) above) and seid (612), for example, seems to occur randomly). Finally, although sequences such as (613) are remarkable constructions documenting target V2 and the correct choice of the plural modal verb form mussten (‘had to’) in a construction with a conjoined subject, a consistent use of verb tense remains a task to be tackled in file 5.
Finally, the overview of verb inflection errors and verb drop in Hamida’s files provided Figure 4.18 (cf. also Table E.5 in Appendix E) makes it apparent that the frequency of non-finite forms remains relatively constant in the files covered in this analysis (about 14%, with exception of file 2 for which the percentage is about 23% ), whereas the erroneous choice of verb endings ranges between 13.2 and 51.9%. The overall trend, though, with the exception of file 4, is characterised by a decrease in the frequency of errors (from 45.4 to 26.3%).
Figure 4.18: Verb inflection errors and verb drop in Hamida’s narratives.