Word order preferences of Tagalog-speaking adults and children

Garcia, R., Dery, J. E., Roeser, J., & Höhle, B. (2018). Word order preferences of Tagalog-speaking adults and children. First Language, 38(6), 617-640. doi:10.1177/0142723718790317.
This article investigates the word order preferences of Tagalog-speaking adults and five- and seven-year-old children. The participants were asked to complete sentences to describe pictures depicting actions between two animate entities. Adults preferred agent-initial constructions in the patient voice but not in the agent voice, while the children produced mainly agent-initial constructions regardless of voice. This agent-initial preference, despite the lack of a close link between the agent and the subject in Tagalog, shows that this word order preference is not merely syntactically-driven (subject-initial preference). Additionally, the children’s agent-initial preference in the agent voice, contrary to the adults’ lack of preference, shows that children do not respect the subject-last principle of ordering Tagalog full noun phrases. These results suggest that language-specific optional features like a subject-last principle take longer to be acquired.
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