Verb inflection in Christa’s narratives
We concluded in the previous section, based on our analysis of word order, that in Christa’s narratives there is no evidence for the raising of main verbs to INFL before file 5. We will look now at inflectional morphology in Christa’s written productions, keeping in mind that verbal inflection is commonly used as a diagnostic criterion to establish whether grammatical processes like subject-verb agreement and verb raising are operative.
Figure 4.22 provides an overview of the relative frequency of target-deviant verb forms and verb drop in Christa’s narratives (cf. also Table E.6 in Appendix E). We can see that verbless clauses occur fairly infrequently in Christa’s written productions, with the exception of file 2. In contrast to the low frequency of verb drop and the overall tendency of a decrease in the frequency of this phenomenon, marked fluctuation in the proportions observed for verb inflection errors does not allow for a conclusive interpretation of Christa’s development over time. Infinitive forms and what we classified as other erroneous forms (such as default forms marked with a final -e or the erroneous choice of the 3rd person singular with 3rd person plural subjects and vice versa) occur with a similar frequency in files 1 and 5. Infinitives predominate in file 3; in files 2 and 4, however, erroneous forms other than infinitives exceed erroneous infinitives in number. Among these errors we find the incorrect choice of 3rd person verb endings with the plural pronoun beide (‘both’) (compare example (638)). At times, Christa produces target-like and target-deviant forms of the same verb in the same file, as is illustrated in examples (639)-(640) which involve two forms of the verb beissen (‘to bite’). Further, we also remarked upon separable verbs appearing in their unanalysed form (cf. (641)) or without the separable prefix (cf. (642)) prior to file 5. Example (643), produced in file 5 and repeated here for convenience, is a remarkable sequence with a target-like distribution of (finite) main verb and separable (non-finite) verb parts (the main verb appearing before the adverbial). Note though that the choice of the verb form (3rd person plural, imperfect tense) is target-deviant. The apparent discrepancy indicates that although the structural relationship between the two positions verbs might appear in is established, the “spell-out” of this relation is not yet (fully) mastered.
Figure 4.22: Verb inflection errors and verb drop in Christa’s narratives (AGR/TNS errors = all verb inflection errors, further distinguished into infinitives and other inflection errors; verb drop = proportion of propositions appearing without a verb; copula drop = percentages in relation to total verb drop).