Locative terms and Warlpiri acquisition Academic Article uri icon


  • ABSTRACTCognitive complexity and complexity of linguistic structure have been found to influence the order of acquisition of locatives. In Warlpiri, locative terms are nominals and they are used in combination with a locative case marker on the reference object; directional affixes may be added to them. Data from a series of tests of Warlpiri children's comprehension and production of the Warlpiri expressions that may be translated as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘in front of’, ‘behind’ and ‘between’ indicate that the locative case forms are used first without the more specific locative nominals; young children distinguish an ‘up-down’ dimension but not ‘in’, and the reference object influences how the locative term is interpreted; kamparru-pirdangirli (‘front-behind’) is not one dimension for children aged four to five years; kulkurru ‘between’ is understood before kamparru ‘front’ and pirdangirli ‘behind’; the use of features on a reference object for orientation develops at around six, but the orientation of the reference object, as well as features on the placed object may affect interpretation.

publication date

  • February 1990