Interference of Second Language in the Acquisition of Tagalog Word in Children: A Case Study

1. Literature Review 

The Austronesian language Tagalog, spoken in the Philippines, permits a relatively variable syntactic word order including the most default word order verb-object-subject (VOS), verb-subject-object (VSO), and subject-verb-object (SVO), the least common word order. To compensate for the potential ambiguity presented by such syntactic alterations, each argument of the verb in a Tagalog sentence receives a distinct case marker that indicates its grammatical function (De Guzman 1976; Rackowski 1996). Segalowitz and Galang (1976) studied the acquisition of word order in native Tagalog-speaking children, particularly with respect to the comprehension of actor-focus and patient-focus sentences, which are respectively similar to active and passive constructions in English. Segalowitz and Galang concluded that Tagalog-speaking children have better mastery of patient-focus than actor-focus in VOS structures, and that children would use the SVO structure most productively with actor-focus sentences because they associate the first noun of the sentence with the agent of the verb. Their study, however, does not provide much insight on the interaction between syntactic word order and case morphology. Laughren (2002) notes in her analysis of the Australian language Warlpiri that a specific set of case markers indicates grammatical functions in the determiner phrase (DP) of languages that allow word order variation, such as Tagalog. English, on the other hand, does not have the same syntactic freedom as Tagalog. English has a more fixed SVO word order structure, which signals the grammatical function of DPs and supplements its deficient case marking system (Matthews, Lieven, Theakston, & Tomasello 2005; Polinsky 2006). In English, the agent of the verb is also commonly associated with the first noun of the sentence, which corresponds to the subject in the default SVO structure (Kamide, Scheeper, & Altmann 2003).

Polinsky (1995, 2010) discusses how the attrition of L1 grammar occurs for heritage speakers, bilinguals who never reach native-like competence in their L1. She argues that this results from the incomplete acquisition of the native tongue when language learners begin to receive greater input from their L2 before fully acquiring the grammar of their L1—often due to the dominance of L2 in their speech community. It is important to distinguish this phenomenon from L1 transfer, where the grammatical properties of L1 influences the acquisition of L2. Because we are considering interference in the complete acquisition of L1 caused by L2 acquisition (Polinsky, Benmamoun, Montrul 2010). In the case of Tagalog, if my child subject had fully learned how word order variation and case morphology complement each other, he should be able to form grammatical sentences using the default VOS structure. Yet, if he—as a bilingual in Tagalog (L1) and (English) L2—is unable to perform word order alterations in Tagalog and uses a fixed word order with minimal case marking instead, this could indicate the interference of English in his full acquisition of word order variability in Tagalog. While the results of this case study do not predict my child subject’s likelihood of fully acquiring word order variability in Tagalog, it presents the probable areas in his L1 grammar where the syntactic interference by his L2 could be taking place.

 1.1 Brief overview of Tagalog syntax: Verb focus

One of the most discussed topics in Tagalog syntax involves its verb focus system, analogous to grammatical voice in English, which is indicated by verbal infixation, or the insertion of an affix inside the word stem (Aldridge 2012; Schacter & Otanes 1972). For the purposes of this paper, the discussion will be limited to actor-focus and patient-focus verbs, which roughly correspond to the active and passive voices in English. In actor-focus structures, the verb is inflected with the infix, –um-, and the semantic focus of the sentence is on the actor/agent of the action. The agent receives the nominative case marker and the object/patient (complement) of the action receives the accusative case marker (Schacter & Otanes 1972; Segalowitz & Galang 1976). In Tagalog, a determiner accompanies the noun (whether common noun or proper name), and this determiner carries the case morphology of the DP: The nominative is signaled by the determiner ang, and the accusative by the determiner ng /naŋ. The agent of the action for an actor-focus verb serves as the topic of the sentence, similar to subject of the sentence in English. As such, in the default verb-initial order in Tagalog for transitive verbs (VOS), the actor-focus structure corresponds to verb-patient-agent for transitive verbs (1) and verb-agent for intransitive verbs (2):

1. K<um>ain        ng                saging   ang            bataʔ      (Segalowitz & Galang 1976)
    <AF.Perf>eat   Det.ACC     banana  Det.NOM  child
    'The child ate the banana.’

2. T<um>awa          ang            bataʔ
     <AF.Perf>laugh  Det.NOM  child
     ‘The child laughed.’

In patient-focus structures the verb is inflected by the infix -in- and the semantic focus of the sentence is on the object/patient of the action. The patient/object receives nominative case while the agent of the action receives the accusative case. Thus, in patient-focus structures, the patient of the action serves as the topic of the sentence, similar to how the object of a transitive action in an English passive voice becomes the subject. In the default VOS syntactic order of Tagalog for transitive verbs, this structure is verb-agent-patient for transitive verbs (3). It would not be grammatical to use a patient-focus verb for intransitive verbs, since they do not have a patient (4):

3. K<in>ain         ng                bataʔ     ang            saging     (Segalowitz & Galang 1976)
    <PF.Perf>eat   Det.ACC     child     Det.NOM  banana
     ‘The banana was eaten by the child.’

4. *T<in>awa          ang            bataʔ
<PF.Perf>laugh  Det.NOM  child
*‘The child was laughed’

This context of the Tagalog focus system and case marking demonstrates how word order variation operates. Because the case morphology on the determiner indicates the DP’s thematic function (agent or patient), the order in which the DPs appear in the sentence does not necessarily matter. The following shows the word order permutations of actor-focus (5) and patient-focus (6) sentences in Tagalog, which particularly demonstrate greater variability in transitive verbs:

5. (a) K<um>ain        ng                saging   ang            bataʔ
         <AF.Perf>eat   Det.ACC     banana  Det.NOM  child
          ‘The child ate the banana.’

             (b) K<um>ain        ang           bataʔ   ng               saging
                  <AF.Perf>eat    Det.NOM child   Det.ACC    banana
                   ‘The child ate the banana’

6. (a) K<in>ain         ng                bataʔ     ang            saging
       <PF.Perf>eat   Det.ACC     child     Det.NOM  banana
        ‘The banana was eaten by the child.’


       (b) K<in>ain          ang            saging   ng                bataʔ
       <AF.Perf>eat   Det.NOM  banana  Det.ACC     child
       ‘The banana was eaten by the child’

Tagalog also allows for an SVO word order, often referred to as ay-cleft or ay-inversion due to its characteristic linker morpheme ay. A sentence type rarely used colloquially. ay-inversion is mostly associated with a formal style of speaking. In ay-inversion, the topic of the sentence moves from a post-predicate to a pre-predicate position. As such, the nominative case appears on the determiner that precedes the verb. Structurally, this Tagalog SVO construction appears quite similar to the default English word order, with the exception of the linker morpheme ay required to link the topic of the sentence to the predicate:

7.  (a) Ang          saging  ay       k<in>ain        ng           bataʔ
      Det.NOM banana LINK <PF.Perf>eat Det.ACC child
      ‘The banana was eaten by the child.

       (b) ? Ang           bataʔ   ay        k<in>ain         ng                saging
       Det.NOM  child   LINK  <PF.Perf>eat  Det.ACC     banana
       ‘The child was eaten by the banana’

8. (a) Ang           bataʔ    ay        k<um>ain        ng               saging
     Det.NOM  child    LINK  <AF.Perf>eat  Det.ACC    banana
     ‘The child ate the banana’

     (b) ? Ang           saging   ay        k<um>ain       ng               bataʔ
      Det.NOM banana   LINK  <AF.Perf>eat  Det.ACC    child
      ‘The banana ate the child.’


It should be noted that even though ay-inversion only permits the DP with nominative case to move to the left of the predicate, it does not have any constraints on thematic function, as both agent and patient DPs can become the topic of the SVO sentence depending on the focus of the verb.

1.2 Brief overview of English syntax and its difference to Tagalog

Unlike Tagalog, English has a fixed SVO word order structure in both the active and the passive voices. Case marking morphology only occurs on English pronouns (Matthews, Lieven, Theakston, & Tomasello 2005; Polinsky 2006). The agent theta role, the argument function assigned by a verb, is also commonly assigned to the subject position in the default SVO active voice (Kamide, Scheeper, & Altmann, 2003). To further show the preferentiality towards the SVO word order in English, the passive voice places the object/patient of the verb in the subject position of the sentence, and the agent appears in an optional by-phrase. Indeed, this English SVO structure, especially that of the passive voice (10), appears quite similar to ay-inversion in Tagalog:


9. English:  The            child               ate                    the              banana.               Active
     Tagalog: Ang           bataʔ   ay        k<um>ain        ng               saging       Actor-Focus
                      Det.NOM  child   LINK   <AF.Perf>eat  Det.ACC    banana.     


10. English:  The            banana  was     eaten               by the         child.               Passive
       Tagalog: Ang           saging   ay        k<in>ain         ng               bataʔ     Patient-Focus
                        Det.NOM banana   LINK  <PF.Perf>eat  Det.ACC    child.    

2. Methods

Subject: My child subject, John (pseudonym), is a Filipino-American boy who was 7;8 at the time of the study. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, and was exposed to Tagalog as his L1. John has an older sister, who like him, was born and raised in Los Angeles and learned Tagalog as her L1. Both of John’s parents are immigrants from the Philippines and have been speaking to him and his sister in Tagalog since they were born. John was first exposed to English (L2) at age 4 when he began to attend school. When I asked his parents about how often he speaks in Tagalog, they said that they teach their two children to write in Tagalog and compel them to speak it at home, because John and his sister already learn and speak English in school all day. Often though, their two children would converse in English whenever they are only speaking to each other. The parents also mentioned to me that John’s Tagalog vocabulary is sometimes lacking (viz. he would say “hair over eyes” in Tagalog as he forgets or does not know the word for “eyebrows”), but they did not mention anything peculiar about his grammar. John was not available for follow-ups after the time of study.

My control for the study, Sandra (pseudonym), is a 54-year-old Filipina woman who came to the U.S. at the age of 44 and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. Sandra was born in a rural province in the Philippines, and learned the Philippine language Bicol as her first language. She began to learn Tagalog and English when she began school at the age of 5, and has been speaking Tagalog predominantly since. Ideally, my control for this study should be another Tagalog-speaking child as old as John, but having a control like Sandra who has acquired native mastery of Tagalog is important so that John’s Tagalog-speaking ability can be examined accurately. Although Sandra is much older than John, she (among other older Filipino immigrants) was the only native Tagalog speaker that was accessible during the time of the study.

Production Task: To test what word orders and case morphology my subjects would produce in Tagalog, I prepared a PowerPoint slideshow that had 32 slides. Each slide contained one image to be used as stimulus for eliciting Tagalog sentences from both of my subjects. I asked my subjects to look at the image that appears and describe to me the action that they see in the photograph using one Tagalog sentence. I then recorded their production using the audio software Audacity® and subsequently transcribed them by listening to the recording.

The first three images were used to prime the subjects and make sure that they understood the task at hand: the first image demonstrated an intransitive action (the dog laughed); the second demonstrated a transitive action verb relating an animate and inanimate object with each other (the man ate the sandwich); the third image also demonstrated a transitive action but it related the action between two animate objects (the boy played with the girl). Once I confirmed that the subjects understood the instructions for the task, I showed them the other 29 images: 12 were transitive actions between two animate objects, 11 were transitive actions between an animate object and an inanimate object, 5 were emotion verbs (the girl loved the dog), and 1 was an intransitive action (the baby cried). I used more images depicting transitive verbs in my experiment because as shown in (5)-(6), transitive verbs allow for the most word order variability in Tagalog.

Comprehension Tasks: To test how well John comprehended the different word order permutations of the same patient-focus sentence, I prepared a PowerPoint slideshow that contained 5 pairs of images—each image pair was shown 4 times in a rotation cycle for a total of 20 slides (See Appendix §7.1 for complete list of images) Each pair of images depicted a transitive action, and each image illustrated either one of the following: a) agent performing an action on patient (e.g. The man was kissed by the woman) or b) patient of first image performing an action on agent of first picture (e.g. The woman was kissed by the man)—i.e. reversal of argument relationship in first picture. Each picture-pair presentation was accompanied by a stimulus sentence using a word order permutation (either VOS, VSO, or SVO) of the same patient-focus sentence that shows the action in the images. Thus, in (11), the image on the right is the only image that would serve as a correct response. In one of the sentence repetitions however, I used a second SVO sentence, with the agent and patient of the actions reversed, in order to ensure that the study participants are not pointing at the same image by rote:


11.  Stimuli: The man was kissed by the woman (image on the right)
      SVO-Inverted: The woman was kissed by the man (image on the left)

VOS       H<in>alikan    ng                 babae    ang            lalaki
               <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC     woman  Det.NOM  man

VSO       H<in>alikan    ang            lalaki  ng                babae
               <PF.Perf>kiss Det.NOM  man    Det.ACC     woman  

SVO       Ang           lalaki  ay        h<in>alikan     ng                 babae
               Det.NOM  man    LINK  <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC     woman  

SVO-Inverted    Ang           babae     ay        h<in>alikan     ng                lalaki
                             Det.NOM  woman   LINK  <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC    man  


Each sentence was presented twice. I then asked my subjects to point to the image they thought was being described by the sentence and their responses were recorded. One of the image pairs depicted an action where the agent and the patient of the action were unclear, so the data from this image pair will not be considered (see (5) in Appendix §7.1). Thus, in total, the performance of the subjects in 16 out of the 20 slides was used for this study.

3. Results

Production Task: John exhibited a significant amount of lexical code-switching, alternating word use between two languages, in comparison to Sandra. In terms of word order, John surprisingly only used the SVO word order, which as noted earlier is rarely used in casual speech in Tagalog. Sandra used all three word orders. When he was about to complete uttering a sentence with the verb-initial structure, John “corrected” himself and reverted back to a sentence with SVO word order (12):

12. Nag-ku~kulay   yung          #  yung        bataʔ   nag-ku~kulay
      AF-Imp~color   Det.NOM #  Det.NOM child   AF-Imp~color
      ‘The child is coloring (the pictures)’

In their SVO sentences with the ay-construction, both John and Sandra only gave the agent in the subject position,. When Sandra gave verb-initial sentences, the agent was also the first noun of her sentences. (John did not produce any verb-initial sentences, as he only produced SVO sentences.) These results are consistent with Segalowitz and Galang’s (1976) findings that the first noun of the sentences in Tagalog is often associated with the agent of the action. Most strikingly, John never used the ay linker morpheme to conjoin the topic to the predicate of his SVO sentences, while Sandra always used the ay linker in her SVO constructions. There were instances when John either produced an incomplete sentence or had hesitations in completing a sentence, in which case I asked him to repeat the sentence he uttered:

13.  *Yung        titser     t<in>u~turuan     paano  yun             poʔ
        Det.NOM teacher  <PF>Imp~teach   how    that.DEM   HON
        ‘*The teacher is teaching how that’

14.`(a) *Yung         babae   t<in>i~teach      poʔ     yung         bataʔ na      yung       storya
          Det.NOM woman <PF>Imp~teach HON Det.NOM child LINK Det.NOM story
          ‘The child is being taught by the woman that the story’

         (b) Yung        babae   s<in>a~sabi     ano    nang-ya~yari      sa              storya
         Det.NOM woman <PF>Imp~say what AF-Imp~happen Det.DAT  story
         ‘What is happening in the story is being said by the woman’

Table 1 summarizes how the subjects used word order during the production task.

Table 1: Production task – Number of sentences uttered by subjects, categorized by the word order they used

It is important to note that there were also some peculiarities in the way John used case marking in comparison to Sandra. Considering that all of his sentences are SVO, he would use the nominative case marker for both the agent DP (pre-predicate) and the patient DP (post-predicate) whenever he would use a verb with the patient-focus inflection. Typically though, the nominative case marker only assigns case to the patient of the action. This means that John used the same case marker was twice in the sentence, which is ungrammatical in Tagalog. (15) shows John’s utterance, and (16) shows the grammatical sentence produced by Sandra:

15.Yung         bataʔ   k<in>ick           yung         bola
     Det.NOM  child   <PF.Perf>kick  Det.NOM  ball
     ‘The ball is kicked by the child’

16. S<in>ipa           ng                bataʔ   yung          bola
      <PF.Perf>kick  Det.ACC     child   Det.NOM   ball
      ‘The ball was kicked by the child’

In the actor-focus sentences he produced, John correctly assigned nominative and accusative case to the agent and patient, respectively. Thus, his actor-focus sentences would have been grammatical if he used the ay linker between the topic and the predicate of the sentence. (17) shows John’s utterance, and (18) shows the grammatical sentence produced by Sandra:

17.Yung         bataʔ   k<um>a~kain    ng               watermelon
      Det.NOM  child   <AF>Imp~eat   Det.ACC    watermelon
      ‘The child is eating the watermelon’

18. K<um>a~kain  sya                 ng              pakwan
      <AF>Imp~eat   Det.ACC   watermelon
       ‘He is eating watermelon’

Comprehension Task: Sandra made no errors in the comprehension task, but John performed poorly in comparison, getting 8 out of the 16 sentences correct. However, if these 16 sentences are broken down into VOS, VSO, and SVO sentence types, a clearer picture of John’s performance can be seen. Interestingly, he comprehended the VOS patient-focus sentences best and made no errors with them, eventhough he never uttered them during the production tasks. The results of the comprehension task are given in Table 2.

Table 2: Comprehension task – Number of patient-focus sentences that the subjects correctly matched with the designated image

He showed the worst performance on SVO patient-focus sentences, even though this was the only word order he used during the production task. It might be interesting to note that the one and only instance that John chose the correct image for the SVO sentence stimulus was when the agent DP and the patient DP of the sentence were both proper nouns. That the determiner of proper nouns in Tagalog has a different morphology from the determiner of common nouns could be a factor for this nuance. (See (1) in Appendix §7.1)

4. Discussion

Even though John’s L1 is Tagalog, the data shows clear patterns that suggest linguistic interference. Because of John’s early exposure to his English L2, this could have affected his full acquisition of his native Tagalog, resulting in his use of English features on Tagalog sentences. His code-switching indicates his deficient Tagalog vocabulary, and more importantly, his morphosyntactic ability in Tagalog shows a level of competence that is low for a child his age. If he had fully acquired the syntax of Tagalog, John’s performance in both the production and comprehension tasks should be comparable to Sandra’s.

John appears to recognize that in Tagalog ay-inversion, a DP should receive the nominative case ang when it moves to a pre-predicate position, as it becomes the topic of the sentence (Schachter and Otanes 1972). After all, he produced nominative case on all DPs that appeared before the predicate, whether the sentence was actor- or patient-focus. If syntactic interference by English indeed took place in John’s Tagalog grammar, it is reasonable to speculate that his exposure to English word order could motivate his preference for Tagalog SVO word order, as well as his disregard for the ay linker—a linker that does not exist in English sentences where the agent of the action is pre-predicate. This could also explain his “correction” from a verb-initial to an SVO construction in (12). However, he also seemed to have his own rule where only the agent of the action can move to the pre-predicate position. Analyzing his utterances, it is clear how analogous his Tagalog word order is to the English parallel of the same sentence:

19.  Thematic: Agent DP            Verb                      Patient DP
       English: The            child  kick                       the            ball
       Tagalog: Yung         bataʔ  k<in>ick               yung         bola
                        Det.NOM  child   <PF.PERF>kick  Det.NOM  ball
                        ‘The ball was kicked by the child’

The sentence in (19) is problematic, however, because the verbal patient-focus infix –in- should mark only the patient as the topic of the sentence, and not the agent. For actor-focus sentences, John had case morphology distinctions, which means that he did not repeat the use of a particular case marker (see (17)). In his patient-focus constructions though, he used the nominative case twice. Thus, John appears to have a mastery for case marker assignment in actor-focus sentences, but not for patient-focus sentences. This lack of mastery of patient-focus structures could also explain John’s difficulty with case-marking on the DPs in patient-focus sentences during the production task, as well as his poor performance on patient-focus SVO sentence during the comprehension task.

I posit that for John’s patient-focus sentences such as the one in (20), he used the nominative case in the pre-predicate position because he recognized that pre-predicate DPs were always nominative in order for the sentence to be grammatical as discussed by Schachter and Otanes (1972). But to account for John’s use of a second nominative case in the post-predicate position, I posit that he used this second nominative case in an attempt to correctly indicate the DP where the semantic focus of the patient-focus verb is placed. (20) shows a possible structure for John’s patient-focus utterances, and how this constituency could influence the case morphology he applied on DPs.

20.[CP Yung         bataʔ  [VP k<in>ick              yung         bola]]
      Det.NOM  child        <PF.PERF>kick  Det.NOM  ball
      ‘The ball was kicked by the child’

One might wonder though why John did not just use the actor-focus structure for all his utterances so that he would have the correct case markers in his DPs. As Seagalowitz and Galang (1976) concluded in their study, Tagalog child speakers prefer patient-focus sentences over actor-focus sentences. Thus, while interference by English might be taking place in John’s Tagalog syntax, this did not seem to happen in his semantic cognition. With this, I suggest the following chain of rules that John used to construct Tagalog sentences:

21. Word Order Rule: Use an SVO word order, like in English

No Linker Rule: Do not put ay linker between preverbal DP and the verb

Agent Rule: Place the agent of the verb in pre-predicate position

Nominative Case Rule: Assign nominative case to the DP in pre-predicate position

Patient Focus Preference: Inflect the verb with the patient-focus morpheme

Patient Nominative Case Rule: Assign nominative case to the patient of a patient-focus verb.

The above chain of rules show the possible interaction between John’s English and Tagalog, as the first three rules resemble English, while the last two rules apply to Tagalog only. (The nominative case rule naturally applies to both languages.)

While John has a preference to produce SVO in Tagalog , it is interesting to see how much better he performed in understanding VOS sentences (see table 2). Referring again to Seagalowitz and Galang (1976), this could be due to a tendency for Tagalog child-speakers to have a preference for patient-focus sentences. Their study also notes that Tagalog-speaking children associate the agent of the action with the first noun of the sentence, and because VOS is the default word structure in Tagalog and the first noun of VOS is the agent in a patient-focus sentence (refer to (3) in §1.1), this could explain John’s above average performance in comprehending this sentence type. It is very likely also that his parents often speak to John in Tagalog using the default verb-initial constructions since SVO is quite rare in Tagalog. This influence of input frequency could also be affecting his acquisition of patient-focus SVO sentences and his ability to comprehend them.

Since I elicited Tagalog sentences, his performance in the production task might not necessarily represent his natural Tagalog speech when he speaks to others (e.g. his parents) in an everyday situation. Could the observer’s paradox have caused John to respond to the production task stimuli in such a way? It would have been also beneficial to see his use of Tagalog before he learned English and compare that to his current Tagalog grammar. Additionally, it would be prudent to do a longitudinal study of his Tagalog acquisition as he grows older and see whether he develops a full mastery grammar of the language or becomes a heritage speaker in the long run. Studying the language development of other L1 Tagalog-speaking children who live in English-speaking communities could also provide better insight about the issue at hand. This would open an opportunity to compare the data collected from John and see whether the rules I posited above exist in the grammar of other Tagalog-speaking children predominantly exposed to English.

5. Conclusion

Tagalog and English are indeed quite distinct from each other morpho-syntactically. As such, seeing how they work together—or more appropriately, in interference—provides some insight into the language development of a child when he learns an L2 before fully acquiring his L1. As shown by Polinsky’s work on American Russian, John’s Tagalog word order variability and case marking restrictions become undone, possibly due to the influence of L2 English in his L1 Tagalog grammar (Polinsky 1995, 2006). Further studies should be done on other Tagalog-English bilingual children to test the data presented in this study.


6.1. Images

(1)  Stimuli: Marge was kicked by Bart (image on the left)
       SVO-Inverted: Bart was kicked by Marge (image on the right)

VOS                S<in>ipaʔ         ni                      Bart  si                      Marge.
                       <PF.Perf>kick  Det.PN.ACC    Bart  Det.PN.NOM  Marge

VSO               S<in>ipaʔ         si                     Marge   ni                   Bart.
                       <PF.Perf>kick  Det.PN.NOM  Marge  Det.PN.ACC  Bart

SVO                 Si                     Marge  ay        s<in>ipaʔ         ni                    Bart.

         Det.PN.NOM  Marge  LINK  <PF.Perf>kick  Det.PN.ACC  Bart

SVO-Inverted Si                    Bart  ay        s<in>ipaʔ         ni                       Marge.

                           Det.PN.NOM  Bart LINK  <PF.Perf>kick  Det.PN.ACC    Marge  


(2)  Stimuli: The dog was bitten by the man (image on the left)

       SVO-Inverted: The man was bitten by the dog (image on the right)

VOS                K<in>agat       ng               lalaki  ang            aso

        <PF.Perf>bite  Det.ACC    man    Det.NOM  dog

VSO                K<in>agat       ang            aso   ng                lalaki

                <PF.Perf>bite  Det.NOM  dog  Det.ACC     man  

SVO                Ang           aso  ay       k<in>agat         ng                lalaki

         Det.NOM  dog LINK  <PF.Perf>bite  Det.ACC     man  

SVO-Inverted Ang           lalaki ay        k<in>agat        ng                aso

                           Det.NOM  man   LINK  <PF.Perf>bite  Det.ACC     aso  


(3)  Stimuli: The man was kissed by the woman (image on the right)

       SVO-Inverted: The woman was kissed by the man (image on the left)

VOS               H<in>alikan    ng                 babae    ang            lalaki

                        <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC     woman  Det.NOM  man

VSO                 H<in>alikan    ang            lalaki  ng                babae

         <PF.Perf>kiss Det.NOM  man    Det.ACC     woman  

SVO                 Ang           lalaki  ay        h<in>alikan     ng                 babae

         Det.NOM  man    LINK  <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC     woman  

SVO-Inverted Ang           babae     ay        h<in>alikan     ng                lalaki

                          Det.NOM  woman   LINK  <PF.Perf>kiss  Det.ACC    man  


(4)  Stimuli: The kite was flown by the child (image on the left)

        SVO-Inverted: The child was flown by the kite (image on the right)

VOS                P<in>a-lipad              ng                bataʔ  ang            saranggola

                        <PF.Perf>CAUS-fly  Det.ACC     child  Det.NOM  kite

VSO                P<in>a-lipad              ang            saranggola  ng                bataʔ

                        <PF.Perf>CAUS-fly  Det.NOM  kite             Det.ACC     child  

SVO                 Ang          saranggola ay       p<in>a-lipad           ng                bataʔ

                          Det.NOM kite            LINK <PF.Perf>CAUS-flyDet.ACC    child

SVO-Inverted Ang          bataʔ  ay      p<in>a-lipad             ng               saranggola

                           Det.NOM child LINK <PF.Perf>CAUS-fly Det.ACC     kite

(5)   Stimuli: The tiger was loved by the child (images ambiguous, omitted)

        SVO-Inverted: The child was loved by the tiger (images ambiguous, omitted)

VOS                M<in>ahal        ng                bataʔ  ang            tiger

                         <PF.Perf>love  Det.ACC     child  Det.NOM  tiger

VSO                  M<in>ahal        ang            tiger  ng                bataʔ

                          <PF.Perf>love  Det.NOM  tiger  Det.ACC     child  

SVO                   Ang           tiger ay        m<in>ahal        ng                bataʔ

                           Det.NOM  tiger LINK  <PF.Perf>love  Det.ACC     child

SVO-Inverted Ang           bataʔ  ay       m<in>ahal        ng                 tiger

                           Det.NOM  child  LINK  <PF.Perf>love  Det.ACC     tiger

6.2.1. Transcription of production task for John, child subject

  1. Yung         lalaki  k<in>i~kis         poʔ     yung          babae.
    Det.NOM  man     <PF>Imp~kiss  HON  Det.NOM  woman
    ‘The woman is being kissed by the man’

  2. Yung           babae     s<in>untok          poʔ      yung           lalaki
    Det.NOM   woman   <PF.Perf>punch   HON   Det.NOM  man
    ‘The man is punched by the woman’

  3. Yung          lalaki   h<in>u~hugasan  yung            kotse
    Det.NOM   man     <PF>Imp~wash   Det.NOM    car
    ‘The man is washing the car’

  4. *Yung          meilman  na-kagat              sa             aso
    Det.NOM   mailman  <AF.Perf>bite    Det.DAT  dog
    ‘The mailman bit (to) the dog’ but the image shows ‘The dog bit the mailman.’

  5. Yung            bata   nag-try              kuha-nin    yung           football
    Det.NOM     child  <AF.Perf>try   get<PF>    Det.NOM    football
    ‘The child tried to get the football’

  6. *Yung        titser     t<in>u~turuan     paano  yun             poʔ
     Det.NOM teacher  <PF>Imp~teach   how    that.DEM   HON
    ‘The teacher is teaching how that’

  7. Yung          pusaʔ  t<in>a~try-ing           kuha-nin  yung          mouse
    Det.NOM  cat       <PF>Imp~try-PROG  get-PF     Det.NOM   mouse
    ‘[The cat]1 is trying [it]1 to get the mouse’

  8. Yung        bataʔ   nag-hu~hugas      ng                 kamay
    Det.NOM child   AF-Imp~wash      Det.ACC      hand
    ‘The child is washing the hands’

  9. Yung        babae   h<in>a~hag         yung          aso
    Det.NOM woman  <PF>Imp~hug   Det.NOM  do
    ‘The dog is being hugged by the woman’

  10. Yung        lalaki  t<in>i~tink           na       lab    poʔ     yung          babae
    Det.NOM man     <PF>Imp~think  LINK  love  HON  Det.NOM  woman
    ‘The man thinks that loves the girl’

  11. (a) *Yung      Cookie Monster  s<in>ipa          yung        Elmo # si                     Elmo
    Det.NOM cookie monster <PF.Perf>kick Det.NOM Elmo # Det.PN.NOM  Elmo
    ‘*Elmo is kicked by Cookie Monster’
    (b) Si                     Cookie Monster  s<in>ipaʔ           si                    Elmo
    Det.PN.NOM  Cookie Monster  <PF.Perf>kick   Det.PN.NOM  Elmo
    ‘Elmo is kicked by Cookie Monster’

  12. Yung         babae    p<in>a~pa-kain             yung        bataʔ
    Det.NOM  woman   <PF>Imp~CAUS-eat  Det.NOM child
    ‘The child is being fed by the woman’

  13. Yung         bataʔ   k<um>a~kain    ng               watermelon
    Det.NOM  child   <AF>Imp~eat   Det.ACC    watermelon
    ‘The child is eating the watermelon’

  14. Yung         lalaki   s<um>i~sigaw      sa             babae
    Det.NOM  man     <AF>Imp~shout  Det.DAT  woman
    ‘The man is shouting at the woman’

  15. Yung         babae     na-gu~gustu-han      yung        lalaki
    Det.NOM  woman   Inv-Imp~like-PF      Det.NOM man
    ‘The man is being liked by the woman’

  16. (a) *Yung         babae   t<in>i~teach      poʔ     yung         bataʔ na      yung       storya
     Det.NOM woman <PF>Imp~teach HON Det.NOM child LINK Det.NOM story
    ‘*The child is being taught by the woman that the story’
    (b) Yung        babae   s<in>a~sabi     ano    nang-ya~yari      sa              storya
    Det.NOM woman <PF>Imp~say what AF-Imp~happen Det.DAT  story
    ‘What is happening in the story is being said by the woman’

  17. Yung         babae  nag-ka~kat   ng              papel  para                   mero-ng
    Det.NOM woman AF-Imp~cut Det.ACC   paper  purpose.clause  existential-LINK gawa-in do-PF
    ‘The woman is cutting paper, so that there could be something to be done’

  18. Yung         meilman  mero-ng                bi-bigay    sa             bataʔ
    Det.NOM  mailman  existential-LINK  Cont-give  Det.DAT  child
    ‘The mailman has something to give to the child’

  19. Yung         babae    nag-la~laro      ng               videogames
    Det.NOM woman  AF-Imp~play  Det.ACC    videogames
    ‘The woman is playing videogames’

  20. Yung         bataʔ   nag-hu~hugas   sa              aso
    Det.NOM  child   AF-Imp~wash  Det.DAT  dog
    ‘The child is washing the dog’

  21. Yung        lalaki  na-gu~gustu-han  yung         babae
    Det.NOM man    Inv-Imp~like-PF  Det.NOM woman
    ‘The woman is being liked by the man’

  22. Yung         bataʔ   k<in>ick           yung         bola
    Det.NOM  child   <PF.Perf>kick  Det.NOM  ball
    ‘The ball is kicked by the child’

  23. Yung         lalaki  w<in>a~water       poʔ     yung         halaman
    Det.NOM  man    <PF>Imp~water   HON  Det.NOM  plant
    ‘The plant is being watered by the man’

  24. Nag-ku~kulay   yung          #  yung        bataʔ   nag-ku~kulay
    AF-Imp~color   Det.NOM #  Det.NOM child   AF-Imp~color
    ‘The child is coloring (the pictures)’

  25. Yung         bataʔ   um-i~iyak
    Det.NOM  child   AF-Imp~cry
    ‘The child is crying’

  26. Yung         bataʔ  b<um>a~basa
    Det.NOM  child   <AF>Imp~read
    ‘The child is reading’

  27. Yung         lalaki   um-i~isip         ano    yung         ga-gaw-in     sa             pensil
    Det.NOM  man    AF-Imp~think what  Det.NOM Cont-do-PF  Det.DAT  pencil
    The man is thinking what is to be done with the pencil’

  28. Yung       bataʔ  nag-drip            ng               ice cream  sa             lalaki
    Det.NOM child  AF.Perf-drip   Det.ACC     ice cream  Det.DAT  man
    ‘The child dripped ice cream on the man’

  29. Yung        babae   nag-la~lagay      ng                dirt  para                    mag-grow      yung           halaman
    Det.NOM woman  AF-Imp~place  Det.ACC     dirt   purpose.clause  Vol-grow  Det.NOM    plant
    ‘The woman is placing dirt so that the plant would grow’

    6.2.2. Transcription of production task for Sandra, adult control

  30. H<in>a~halikan   ng               lalaki     yung           dalaga
    <PF>Imp~kiss      Det.ACC     man       Det.NOM   young.woman
    ‘The young woman is being kissed by the man’

  31. S<in>untuk         ng                babae     yung          mamaʔ
    <PF.Perf>punch  Det.ACC     woman   Det.NOM
    ‘The man was punched by the woman’

  32. Yung         lalaki ay        nag-li~linis       ng                kotse
    Det.NOM  man   LINK  AF-Imp~wash  Det.ACC     car
     ‘The man is washing the car’

  33. K<in>agat       ng                 aso   yung          kartero
    <PF.Perf>bit   Det.ACC      dog   Det.Nom   mailman
    ‘The mailman was bitten by the dog’

  34. S<in>a~salo         ng                 bataʔ   yung          bola
    <PF>Imp~catch   Det.ACC      child   Det.NOM   ball
    ‘The ball was being caught by the child’

  35. Siya              ay        nag-tu~turo  LINK  AF-Imp~teach
    ‘She is teaching’

  36. H<in>abol          ni                     Tom   si                      Jerry
    <PF.Perf>chase  Det.PN.ACC    Tom   Det.PN.NOM   Jerry
    ‘Jerry is being chased by Tom’

  37. Ang           bataʔ   ay        nag-hu~hugas    ng              kamay
    Det.NOM  child   LINK   AF-Imp~wash   Det.ACC   hands
    ‘The child is washing his hands’

  38. Ni-ya~yakap   nung           ale                   yung           aso
    PF-Imp~hug   Det.ACC    adult.female   Det.NOM   dog
    ‘The dog is being hugged by the woman’

  39. Yung          bataʔ   ay        in-lab    doon  sa             katabi      nya-ng      babae
    Det.NOM   child   LINK  there  Det.DAT adjacent  woman
    ‘The boy is in love with the girl next to him’

  40. S<in>ipaʔ          ni                      Cookie Monster  si                     Elmo
    <PF.Perf>kick   Det.PN.ACC    Cookie Monster  Det.PN.NOM  Elmo
    ‘Elmo was kicked by Cookie Monster’

  41. P<in>a~pa-kain         ng                nanay   yung        kanya-ng               anak
    <PF>Imp~CAUS-eat Det.ACC     mother Det.NOM offspring
    ‘[Her] child is being fed by [the mother]

  42. K<um>a~kain  sya                 ng              pakwan
    <AF>Imp~eat   Det.ACC   watermelon
    ‘He is eating watermelon’

  43. S<in>igawan    nung           matanda-ng  lalaki  yung          bataʔ
    <PF.Perf>shot  Det.ACC    old-LINK     man    Det.NOM  child
    ‘The child was yelled at by the old man’

  44. ʔ<in>i~isip         nung             babae   ang            kanyang                 mahal
    <PF>Imp~think  Det.ACC     woman  Det.NOM  love
    ‘[Her] love is being thought of by [the woman]

  45. Sya               ay        nag-tu~turoʔ     sa             mga  bataʔ  LINK  AF-Imp~teach  Det.DAT  PL    child
    ‘He is teaching the children’

  46. G<in>unting          nya                 ang            karton
    <PF.Perf>scissors     Det.NOM  box
    ‘The box is being cut by her (using scissors)’

  47. ʔ<in>a~abot       ng                kartero     ang            kahon  sa             bataʔ
    <PF>Imp~reach  Det.ACC     mailman  Det.NOM  box     Det.DAT  child
    ‘The box is being handed over to the child by the mailman’

  48. Nag-la~laro     sya               ng                Nintendo
    AF-Imp~play  Det.ACC     Nintendo
    ‘She is playing Nintendo’

  49. P<in>a~pa-liguan         ng               bata    ang            kanyang      alaga-ng    aso
    <PF>Imp~CAUS-bath  Det.ACC    child  Det.NOM  pet-LINK  dog
    ‘[His]i pet dog is being bathed by [the child]i

  50. T<in>i~tingnan ng              lalaki ang             larawan  ng   kanyang
    <PF>Imp~look  Det.ACC   man   Det.NOM  picture    of
    s<in>i~sinta-ng              dilag<PF>
    Imp~adore-LINK  young.woman
    ‘The image of the woman that [he]i adores is being looked at by [the man]i

  51. S<in>ipa           ng                bataʔ   yung          bola
    <PF.Perf>kick  Det.ACC     child   Det.NOM   ball
    ‘The ball was kicked by the child’

  52. Nag-di~dilig     sya               ng                 halaman
    AF-Imp~water  Det.ACC     plant
    ‘She is watering the plants’

  53. Sya               ay        nag-do~drowing  LINK  AF-Imp~draw
    ‘He is drawing’

  54. ʔ<um>i~iyak  ang            bataʔ
    AF-Imp~cry   Det.NOM  child
    ‘The child is crying’

  55. Nag-ba~basa   sya               ng                libro
    AF-Imp~read  Det.ACC     book
     ‘He is reading a book’

  56. Naka-kita      sya                ng                lapis
    Inv.Perf-see  Det.ACC     pencil
    ‘She saw a pencil’

  57. Na-ga~galit      ang           tatay   doon sa            bata-ng        d<in>umihan     ang            kanya-ng               ulo
    AF-Imp~anger Det.NOM father there Det.DAT child-LINK<PF.Perf>mess Det.NOM head
    ‘The father is being angry at the child who got mess on his head’

  58. Nag-ta~tanim   ang            bataʔ  ng              dalya
    AF-Imp~plant  Det.NOM  child  Det.ACC   sunflower
    ‘The child is planting sunflower’


  1. Tagalog is actually an absolutive-ergative language (Aldridge 2012), but for this paper, we will use the nominative-accusative case distinction to simplify typological theory.

  2. For this study, we will treat yung and ang as allomorphs of the nominative case determiner.

  3. For the purposes of this study, we will treat nung and ng as allomorphs of the accusative determiner.

  4. This –ing appears to be the English verb progressive morpheme that arises due to John’s code-switching in his speech. Notice that it happens in the same verb that has the Tagalog imperfective aspect.

Works Referenced

Aldrige, E. 2012. Antipassive and ergativity in Tagalog.

De Guzman, V. P. 1976. Syntactic derivation of Tagalog verbs.

Kamide, Y., C. Scheeper, and G. T. Altmann. 2003. Integration of syntactic and semantic information in predictive processing: Cross-linguistic evidence from German and English. Journal of psycholinguistic research, 32(1), 37-55. Chicago

Laughren, M. 2002. Syntactic Constraints in a" Free Word Order. Language universals and variation, 83-130.

Maratsos, M. and R. Abramovitch. 1975. "How children understand full, truncated, and anomalus passives", Journal of Verbal learning and Verbal Behaviour. 14.

Maratsos, M., D.E. Fox, A.M. Becker, and M.A. Chalkley. 1985. Semantic restrictions on children's passives. Cognition, 19(2), 167-191.

Matthews, D., E. Lieven, A. Theakston, and M. Tomasello. 2005. The role of frequency in the acquisition of English word order. Cognitive Development, 20(1), 121-136.

Polinsky, M. 1995. American Russian: Language loss meets language acquisition. Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics. Cornell Meeting. Michigan Slavic Publications.

---. 2006. Incomplete Acquisition: American Russian. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, 14(2).

Polinsky, M., E. Benmamoun, E., and S. Montrul. 2010. White paper: Prolegomena to heritage linguistics. Heritage Linguistics.

Rackowski, A. S. 1996. The structure of Tagalog: specificity, voice, and the distribution of arguments.

Schacter, P. and F. T. Otanes. 1972. Tagalog Reference Grammar.

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