Acquiring variable stress in Greek: An Optimality-Theoretic approach

In: Journal of Greek Linguistics
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  • 1 1University of Leiden Center for Linguistics/HIL


The present study treats the acquisition of stress in Greek. The goal is the investigation of the mechanisms through which children manage ultimately to acquire the stress system of their native language. The Greek data were drawn from the natural speech of five children ages 1;10 to 3;0 years. The findings of the research emphasize interesting similarities to and differences from the data of children who acquire other languages. More specifically, the children who acquire Greek show a systematic faithfulness to the stressed syllable, which, for the most part, they preserve in their realizations, however not in trochaic feet, even though they are considered the most natural structures in child speech crosslinguistically. As a result, iambic and trochaic structures are manifested in parallel fashion in the speech of different children (inter-child variation) or even in the speech of a single child (intra-child variation). The analysis of the data, done within the framework of the model of Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993), demonstrates that children use parallel grammars throughout the different stages of development.

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