Analysis Of Sentence Structure In Childrens Literature English Language Essay

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The Oxford Dictionary offers us two definitions of a sentence. Firstly it is defined as "a set of words complete in itself as the expression of a thought, containing or implying a subject and predicate, and conveying a statement, question, exclamation, or command" secondly as "a piece of writing or speech between two full stops or equivalent pauses often including several grammatical sentences". (Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, 2003)

As DuÅ¡ková says, the definition of a sentence can be made on the base of several points of view. We can be considering the content, function, grammar or phonetics. However a sentence comes into existence when the relationship of its items is fully expressed and that falls into the grammatical point of view. (DuÅ¡ková, 1988, str. 309)

The Simple sentence

Types of sentences according to their syntactic structure

A simple sentence is a sentence which consists of only one independent clause. Quirk names seven types of simple sentence according to the presence of clause elements.

The simplest structure is a structure consisting of a subject (S) and a verb (V or P as predicator), e.g. The Sun is shining. Another type is (S) subject + (V) verb + (O) object, e.g. That lecture bored me. In the third type of a simple sentence, the verb is followed by subject complement (SVCp), e.g. Your dinner seems ready. The fourth structure has its verb followed by an adverbial (SVA), e.g. My office is in the next building. The following structure consists of subject, verb and two objects from which one is direct (Oi) and the second indirect (Od), e.g. I (S) must send (V) my parents (Oi) an anniversary card (Od). In the sixth type of structure the subject and the verb is followed by an object and an object complement (Co), e.g. Most students have found her reasonably useful. The last type of a simple sentence is a structure where the subject and the verb are followed by an object and an adverbial (SVOA), e.g. You can put the dish on the table. (Quirk, 1985, p. 204)

Other variations of clause patterns

Passive structures

Passive structure, together with the active structure, falls into the category of voice. In passive sentences the structure of the clause is reorganized and the information focus changes. The direct object in active structures can become the subject in passive structures, e.g. They regarded roots as peasant food.→ Roots were regarded as peasant food. The subject of the original active structure either disappears of it changes into an adjunct in the passive structure, using by, e.g. Roots were regarded as peasant food by the court.

We recognize two kinds of passive, short, which is more common, and long. We talk about short passives when the agent of the action is not given. When the agent is expressed in the passive structure, introduced by by, we deal with the long passive.

As mentioned above, the information focus in passive structures is different compared to the active structures. In passive structures the agent is no more in the centre of attention and the main focus is transferred to the action itself. In some cases, the passive structure is a result of speaker's direct intention to avoid mentioning the agent.

Existential clauses

Existential clause is a kind of clause where the position of the subject is taken by the anticipatory subject, so called existential there. Existential clause are structures containing verbs that denote existence, appearance or motion, especially the verb to be. (Biber, 1999, str. 153)

The function of existential clauses is simply to express existence of something.


Verb Classes

There are three classes of verbs: intransitive, transitive (further divided to monotransitive, ditransitive and complex-transitive) and copular verbs. Each class occurs in a certain type of sentence structure.

Intransitive verbs

There is no other element required with intransitive verbs; these verbs are a part of the S+V structure, e.g. fly, blink, sleep….

Transitive verbs

Transitive verbs are all verbs that require an object. Monotransitive verbs: one other element (O) is required (SVO structure), e.g. lose, break, find. Ditransitive verbs: two more elements are required (SVOiOd structure), e.g. give, hand, offer. Complex-transitive verbs: an object complement or an adjunct is necessary in the SVO structure, e.g. keep- "They keep the house preserved.", call- "She called her kitten Smudgie.", appoint- "They appointed him President".

Copular verbs

Need a subject complement (SVCs) or an adjunct (SVA), e.g. be, feel, smell.

Clause Elements


The presence of a subject is necessary in all finite clauses with the exception of the imperative clauses. Though not present, the subject is implied in the imperative clauses. There is one more case when the subject is not stated in the clause and it is the case when the ellipsis is used. Ellipsis, one of the figures of speech, is an omission of a word, a subject in our case, because the speaker expects the listener to be able to deduce the "missing word" from the context of from the previous knowledge, e.g. Thank you..

The most frequent realization of the subject is by nouns or pronouns, but the subject can be also realized by other word classes and then we are talking about syntactic nouns, e.g. The weak (Adj) must be helped..

The subject determines the number and the person of the verb e.g. John speaks Russian very well., the number, person and gender of the reflexive pronouns, e.g. She could not recognize herself in the mirror. The relationship between the subject and the verb is a relationship of mutual influence.

In passive clauses the subject becomes the subject complement using "by", e.g. John (S) drove us. and We were driven by John (Cs)., or the agent is omitted.

In tag questions, the subject is repeated by a pronoun of the same, person, number and gender, e.g. John is a good teacher, isn't he?.


Predicator is a clause element realized solely by verb. Some grammars do not use the term predicator and call this clause element simply a verb. Predicator may consist of a full verb alone or a full verb accompanied by one or more auxiliary verbs, e.g. Prince Brat knew that he had nothing to fear. He had never been spanked in his life. Predicator is a central element of a clause as it denotes the action "do" or the state "be".


There are two types of object, indirect and direct. An object is a sentence element that may be either obligatory or facultative according to the verb.

Direct Object

Like the indirect object, the direct object is usually a nominal group. When there is no indirect object in the clause, the direct object follows the transitive verb, e.g. He kicked the ball. In complex structures, there may be the anticipatory it in the position of the direct object while the direct object is realized by an infinitive or a subordinate clause, e.g. He found it difficult to tell the truth. He found it sad that she didn't trust him.

Indirect Object

Is typically realized by a nominal group, e.g. "Charles gave Alice a glass of champagne." or by a pronoun. Though very rare, indirect object may be also realized by wh-clause, e.g. "Give whoever comes a glass of champagne". It follows only ditransitive verbs. (Biber)


A complements is a clausal element that is in relation with either subject (subject complement) or object (object complement). In contrast with the object, the complement cannot be converted into a passive form. Both, subject and object complements are most typically realized by an adjectival group, or by a nominal group.

Subject Complement

In some grammars (Biber, 1999, str. 126), we can find the subject complement (Cs) under the term "subject predicative". The subject complement can be found in SVCs structures, following copular verbs, e.g. This place is beautiful.

Object Complement

Also called an object predicative (Po) (Biber, 1999, str. 130), the object complement (Co) is a clause element that we can find in structures containing complex transitive verbs (SVOCo). I find this place suitable. As we can see in the example, the object complement relates to the direct object and also usually follows the direct object. (Biber, 1999, str. 130)


Adverbials are very diverse clause elements. They may be added to any structure and can be found in various positions within the sentence. Adverbials have many semantic roles and may be either optional or obligatory. There are three classes of adverbials named in the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English: circumstance, stance and linking adverbials (Biber, 1999, str. 131), these three categories correspond to Quirk's adjunct, disjunct and conjunct. (Quirk, 1985) The most common realizations of adverbials are adverbial groups and prepositional phrases.


We can say that adjuncts add some circumstance information to the structure. They may be elicited by questioning Where, When, How or Why. Most verbs, even the intransitive ones, are often supplemented by an adjunct, giving the circumstance information, e.g. He died of eating some poisonous mushrooms. If there is no adjunct in a structure with an intransitive verb, the understandability of the utterance is dependent on the context (Quirk, 1985, p. 506), e.g. He ate some poisonous mushrooms and he died.


Disjuncts are not a real part of the structure. As Quirk says, disjuncts have a superior role in the sentence. (Quirk, 1985, p. 613) Most utterances we produce are not objective, they usually express our attitude or opinion about the content of the utterance. A disjunct is the speakers comment on the content of the utterance, e.g. To be frank, it didn't live up to my expectations.


As well as disjuncts, conjuncts have relatively superordinate position in the sentence. (Quirk, 1985, p. 631) The function of conjunct is to join relatively independent units by means of expressions like: as well, however, instead, firstly and it also includes reaction signals like hmm, aha, well. The relationship between the two units is set from the point of view of the speaker, e.g. His results are not very good, on the other hand he tried hard.

Semantic roles of clause elements

There are several semantic roles within every clause element, different grammars offer different classifications, so in this text, I am going to name just those that are relevant for the analysis of children's literature.


Every element of a sentence realized by a noun phrase is a participant, e.g. Prince Brat (S) shot Jemmy (Oi) a poisonous look (Od). (Fleishman, 1987, p. 28)

Agent, affected, recipient

The role of agent is a typical role of a subject in a sentence containing a direct object. (Quirk, 1985, p. 741) The subject-agent is the initiator of the action, e.g. The prince moved his arms and shoulders. (Fleishman, 1987, p. 61)

The affected participant role is a role typical for the direct object. The affected participant does not initiate the action, but there is a certain involvement in the action, (Quirk, 1985, p. 741), e.g. Prince Brat tied their powdered wigs to the backs of their oak chairs. (Fleishman, 1987, p. 1)

Another participant role is the role of recipient. This role is usual for the indirect objects, but it can also be the role of a subject in passive structures of ditransitive verbs (DuÅ¡ková, 1988, str. 398), e.g. He was given a second chance. This participant has a passive, recipient, role in the action."Cutwater, serve them up our finest bread and herring." (Fleishman, 1987, p. 16)


The attribute role is a role usual for both complements, subject and object complement. The complements give us the characterization of the subject or the object, e.g. Billy was a big man, he saw, big and raw as a skinned ox. (Fleishman, 1987, p. 12) It had a very large wet nostrils. "It's a pig!" said dad. (Hughes, 1992)

External causer and instrument roles

An external causer is usually some natural force, that unwittingly causes some action to happen (Quirk, 1985, p. 743),e.g. The flood damaged a great part of the village. We talk about the role of an instrument, when the subject or the object are used as tools of some action, e.g. This sharp knife will help you.

The role of process

The role of process is a role expressed by the verb. There are several subcategories of the role of process. The process of activity, "of doing", e.g. Then Grandma and Mum came by to do some shopping. (Hughes, 1992) The process of communication, verbal process, e.g. Alfie asked them whether they were coming to buy something at the shop. Then the mental process of perception, e.g. Inside the tent he could hear Dad breathing. Another kind of mental process is the process of affectivity, e.g. Alfie liked Bonting a lot. There is also the process of cognition, e.g. He remembered that he had put him out to dry after his swim.

The role of circumstance

Again, there are several subcategories of the role of circumstance, but in this paper, we are going to deal just with three of them which are considered to be the most common, i.e. locative, temporal and the role of manner.


Locative circumstance role is a role expressing the position, distance and direction (Biber, 1999, str. 776), e.g. a Common boy was kept in the castle to be punished in his place. (Fleishman, 1987, p. 2)


The role of temporal circumstance can express position in time, duration or frequency (Biber, 1999, str. 777), e.g. It was very late when they arrived home.


The last role of circumstance I am going to mention is the role of manner. The circumstance of manner tells us in what way some action was done or in what way something happened, e.g. "Of course I can!" answered the prince in a stinging voice. (Fleishman, 1987, p. 50) The role of circumstance is most common for adverbials, but it can also be the role of a subject, e.g. The night was dark.

Multiple sentence

Multiple sentence is a clause consisting of more than one clause. Quirk also makes distinction between two kinds of multiple sentences, the compound and the complex sentence. Compound sentence is a sentence that consists of two or more equal main clauses. Complex sentence is a structure consisting of one main clause that is superordinate, and at least one subordinate clause. (Quirk, 1985, p. 988)

Syntactic relationships

There are two types of syntactic relationship, the paratactic relationship; the relationship of grammatical equivalence and the hypotactic relationship; the relationship of grammatical nonequivalence. (Quirk, 1985, p. 918)

Realisation of syntactic relationships

The paratactic relationship may be expressed either by coordinating conjunctions, then we are talking about coordination or it may be expressed without the use of conjunctions and than we are talking about juxtaposition. The hypotactic relationship may be of subordination, using subordinating conjunctions or ,as in the previous case, juxtaposition i.e. without the use of conjunctions.

Types of clauses in a hypotactic relationsip

Dependent Clauses- Subordinate Clauses

Finite clause

Finite clause is a clause that contains a finite verb, e.g. Leaves crackled under Jemmy's feet as he began to back off. We distinguish four types of finite clauses according to the purpose they serve in the discourse, i.e. what is the speakers intention to make the discourse and what is the expected response of his or her audience.

Types of finite clauses

Nominal Clauses

Clauses that represent subject or direct object in the main clause are nominal clauses. This type of clause is introduced either by the subordinator that, or by wh-word, e.g. What you've just said is a total nonsense.

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial clauses express the circumstances of the main clause and function as adverbials, they also share the same semantic classification with adverbials, e.g. If they were here, they would like it.

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses, also called adjectival clauses, function as postmodifiers of the noun phrase, which is called the antecedent. This type of clause is introduce by relative pronouns. Relative clauses may be defining of non-defining (restrictive or non restrictive).

Restrictive relative clauses add some information that cannot be omitted without changing the meaning of the clause. Restrictive relative clauses identify the antecedent, e.g. The colours which has been chosen are not appropriate.

Nonrestrictive relative clauses supply the clause with some additional information which is not necessary for understanding the main message of the clause, e.g. Jemmy, who was obliged to be close at hand for the daily lessons, reckoned that freedom was now close at hand.

Comparative clauses

The function of comparative clauses is to compare properties of some feature. According to Quirk (1985), there are three types of comparison, the comparison of equivalence (or of nonequivalence), e.g. Alfie's elephant was old, nearly as old as Alfie., of sufficiency, e.g. It was big enough for two people to lie down in., or of excess, e.g. Annie Rose was too little to go camping.

Reporting Clauses

Reporting clause is a part of a direct speech. It introduces the speaker but it may also introduce the addressee, e.g. "Bonting will have to have a new bathing suit," he told mum. , the type of act, e.g. "But we can't leave Bonting behind!" wailed Alfie. or the mode of the act, e.g. "I didn't know Jim Gatting had put his pig in this field," grumbled Dad sleepily.

The reporting clause may take the initial, medial and final position in the direct speech. The verb of the reporting clause is most commonly in the past tense form.

Comment Clauses

Comment clauses express speaker's attitude to the content of the sentence, e.g. Tipped us over, as you see. While Biber (1999) compares comment clauses to reporting clauses with the verb in present tense, Quirk (1985) considers comment clauses a kind of disjunct.

Types of finite clauses according to their function in utterance

Declarative clauses

In most cases, this type of clause expresses a statement and its purpose is to give information, e.g. Mum and Grandma were sitting in the garden having a cup of tea. In affirmative declarative clauses, as in the example above, the subject precedes the predicator. In negative declarative clauses, the subject is followed by auxiliary or modal verb, the negative particle and then comes the full verb, e.g. He didn't yelp or bellow.

Interrogative clauses

By means of interrogative clauses, the speaker wants to elicit some information. There are three main types of interrogative clauses: yes/no questions, wh- questions and alternative questions.

Yes/no questions

Yes/no questions, first main type interrogative clauses, which may also be called polar questions, is an interrogative to which the expected reaction of the addressee is either affirmation of negation, e.g. The ladies shrieked. →Did the ladies shriek?

Compared to declarative clauses, the word order of interrogative clauses is different. In case of the verb to be, the question can be created by means of inversion, e.g. It's called Burrows and company. →Is it called Burrows and company? When the clause contains an auxiliary verb, the auxiliary goes in front of the subject with the full verb following, e.g. The king offered a reward for the whipping boy. → Has the king offered a reward for the whipping boy? When the sentence contains more than one auxiliary verb, the first auxiliary precedes the subject and the other auxiliaries follow the subject together with the full verb, e.g. Our prince has been abducticated. → Has our prince been abducated? The same rule is applied when a modal verb is a part of the verb phrase, e.g. A horse can always find his way home.→ Can a horse always find his way home. When there is no auxiliary verb in the declarative clause, the interrogative is created by means of "do", e.g. We dress you up fancy and feed you royal .→Do we dress you up fancy and feed you royal?

Interrogative yes/no clauses may also be negative, e.g. Wasn't it your mother? The speaker usually uses negative questions in order to reassure himself or herself rather than to get some new information. In the structure of negative interrogative yes/no questions the negative particle follows the auxiliary or modal verb and precedes the subject.

Question tags

Question tags are not fully independent clauses, they are a part of a structure containing another, usually a declarative clause. Question tag is a tool supporting the interaction, using it, the speaker encourages the addressee to respond to the information given in the declarative clause.

This type of interrogative consists of an operator and a personal pronoun. The operator of the tag question normally corresponds to the operator of the preceding clause, e.g. You can fend for your own self, can't you! When there is no operator in the declarative clause, the dummy auxiliary do is used to create the tag question, e.g. They own this house, don't they? Question tags may be also added, and they often are, to a clause which is not complete, e.g. The highwayman, are you!


Another type of interrogative clauses are wh-questions. When the wh-word is a part of the subject, the word order is the same as in declarative clauses, e.g. Who cooks the dinner? When the wh-word is a part of another clause element, the common word order of interrogative clauses is used, e.g. Why did you do that! One type of interrogative questions are indirect interrogatives. The indirect questions (also reported questions) consist of projecting and projected clause, these are connected by means of whether or if, e.g. The children asked whether the story was true.

As well as yes/no questions, the wh- questions may be negative, e.g. Where shouldn't we go?

Alternative questions

The last main type of interrogative clauses are alternative questions. These clauses are similar to polar interrogative clauses in the structure, but instead of expecting yes or no answers, it offers alternatives, presuming that one of the alternatives is the one to be chosen by the addressee, e.g. Would you like coffee or tea?

Alternative interrogatives can also take the form of a combination of wh- question and elliptic alternative question, e.g. What would you like, coffee or tea?

Minor types of interrogative clauses

There are two more types of interrogatives that are, as to their occurrence, considered minor. These are called exclamatory questions and rhetorical questions. Exclamatory and rhetorical questions both have the typical interrogative structure.

Exclamatory questions are usually negative yes/no questions, where the speaker's intention is to receive the reaction of an assertion, e.g. Ain't I already been whipped twice today!

Rhetorical questions do not ask for any answers, they may be negative or positive yes/no questions expecting positive or negative assertion, e.g. Didn't I tell you who I was!

Imperative Clauses

The function of imperative clauses, some grammars e.g. (Quirk, 1985) use the term directives, is to give directives, i.e. instructions, orders, commands etc.

Most typically, there is no subject in imperative clauses directed to 2nd person singular and plural, in fact there is no need of subject in this type of clause, as the addressee of the imperative is usually obvious from the context of the situation, e.g. Fetch the whipping boy! However, in order to make the directive stronger, the personal pronoun you may be used, e.g. You fetch the whipping boy! The subject can be also present in the tag question, e.g. Fetch the whipping boy, will you?

When 1st and 3rd person singular and plural are the intended addresses, the imperative may be created by means of let, in this type of structure, the verb let is followed by the subject in objective case (Quirk, 1985, p. 829) e.g. Let me have a word with him! Except for let me, this type of clause is rather archaic. In colloquial English, the contracted form of let us, let's is commonly used, e.g. Let's parley!

Imperative clauses may also take the negative form, e.g. And don't try to run away. or Let's not talk about it.

Exclamative Clauses

The function of this type of clause is to express some emotional impression like surprise, shock or others.

According to Quirk (1985), exclamative clauses are only these starting with the wh- element how or what, e.g. What horrible new mischief was this! Biber's definition of the exclamative clauses is, compared to Quirk's, more loose as Biber's exclamative clauses include other structures like declaratives, interrogatives or exclamative questions, e.g. What's keeping you!

Non-finite clauses

Non-finite clause are clauses containing a non-finite verb, that is to-infinitive, bare infinitive, -ing participle or -ed participle. For example: He was determined never to spring a tear for the prince to gloat over. According to Biber (1999), a verbless clause can also be considered a non-finite clause.

Each of the four main types of non-finite clause can take the form of a structure with or without the subject. Non-finite clauses lack modal auxiliaries and they are not marked as to the tense.

Non-finite clauses may represent many syntactic roles, e.g. One afternoon, Mum gave Alfie a long cardboard box to play with., in this example the non-finite, to-infinitive, clause functions as an adverbial. The interpretation of the meaning on a non-finite clause is dependent on the main clause.

Logico-semantic relationship- Expansion and Projection

The advantage of multiple clauses, in contrast with simple clauses, is the ability to express more complex situations. In other words, a multiple clause is more precise in description of the reality as it is a reflection of our cognitive organisation of the situation.

The logico-semantic relationships are described in detail in Halliday's "An Introduction to Functional Grammar" (1994). The following overview of the logico-semantic relationships is based on this publication.

4.1. Expansion

Halliday (1994) describes expansion as a relationship when the clauses contain different kind of additional information. There are three subcategories of expansion: elaboration, extension and enhancement. Each of these subcategories may be of paratactic or hypotactic relationship.

4.1.1. Paratactic elaboration


Using conjunctive elements such as in other words or that is in a sentence, we make a new statement about the content of the first clause from a different perspective. This kind of elaboration is called exposition.


Exemplification is another kind of paratactic elaboration, evolving the content of the preceding clause by giving an example, using conjunctive elements such as for instance or for example.


Expressions like in fact or indeed are conjunctive elements that clarify the content of the first clause, therefore this kind of paratactic elaboration is called clarification.

4.1.2. Hypotactic elaboration

Hypotactic elaboration is the relationship in non-defining (also non-restrictive clauses).

4.1.3. Paratactic extension- coordination


And, also, nor, in addition or furthermore are conjunctive elements putting together two situations in positive, negative or adversative relationship. As we are extending the content of the first clause by adding some information this, kind of paratactic extension is called Addition.


When the first clause's content is replaced by the content of the second clause by means of but or instead we talk about variation.


When the first clause is given an alternative to its content by the second clause, using conjunctive elements such as either… or and on the other hand, it is the paratactic relationship of alternation.


Explanation, also called specification, is a kind of extension, using conjunctive elements like that is or which means, where the content of the first clause is explained by the second clause.

4.1.4. Hypotactic extension

Contrastive dependency

When the dependent clause contrasts with the main clause in the case of contrastive dependency, common conjunctive elements for this kind of relationship are while or whereas.

Subtractive dependency

Subtractive dependency is a relationship of a main and a dependent clause, where the dependent clause subtracts from the main clause by means of expressions such as except that or but for the fact.

Using elements like whereas, except that etc. may lead to the impression that the clauses are in a paratactic relationship. We can recognize the kind of relationship by exchanging the position of the clauses, if this exchange functions well, i.e. the "rheme" sentence is able to become the "theme" sentence, we can say that the relationship is hypotactic.

The additive, adversative, contrastive, or subtractive relationships may be also expressed by non-finite "-ing clause", using besides, instead of, without etc.

4.1.5. Paratactic enhancement

Paratactic enhancement is a relationship realized by coordination or juxtaposition, being supported by conjunctions e.g. then, still, otherwise; conjunctive combinations e.g. and then, and so, and yet; or by cohesive combinations with and e.g. and in that way, and in this case; that give the information about the circumstances.

4.1.6. Hypotactic enhancement

This kind of relationship is realized by adverbial clauses.

4.2. Projection

The logico-semantic relationship of projection is the one expressed by direct and indirect speech.

Selected titles

For the sentence structure analysis, I selected two books of contemporary authors of children's literature- Sid Fleischman's The Whipping Boy and Shirley Hughes' The Big Alfie Out of Doors. Though the titles are relatively recent, both of them are appreciated and well known in the countries of their origin, in case of Sid Fleishman's "Whipping Boy" even abroad. Sid Fleischman and Shirley Hughes belong to the winners of prestigious awards that are given to the most significant contributors to children's literature in the United States (Fleischman) and in the United Kingdom (Hughes). The titles chosen for the analysis deliberately differ in the target age group they are intended for. The minimal age distance between the readers of these two books is three years. The purpose is to demonstrate how the complexity of the sentence structures in a children's book changes with the age of its intended readers.

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy is a children's book by American, Brooklyn-born author Sid Fleishman. Sid Fleishman is a very popular and respected author in the field of children's literature not only in the USA, his works have been translated into fourteen languages. (Fleishman, 1987) The Whipping Boy is a book that made Sid Fleishman the winner of the John Newbery Medal of 1987. Published in 1987, this book is aimed at the group of readers in between nine and twelve years.

The Big Alfie Out of Doors

The big Alfie Out of Doors is a children's storybook by a British writer and illustrator Shirley Hughes. Also well-known and respected, Shirley Hughes is a holder of a prestigious British award for authors of children literature, the Eleanor Farjeon Award of 1984 (Hughes, 1992). Shirley Hughes has written and illustrated more than 50 books (, most of them, including The Big Alfie Out of Doors, are intended for the group of four to six years of age. (

First language acquisition

Language is one of the most characteristic and most important features of human beings. It is a tool that allows us to not "just" to express our thoughts but most importantly, it enables us to be a part of the social interaction surrounding us.

Approaches to first language acquisition

There exist several theories dealing with the question of the first language acquisition. After the behaviourist approach, claiming that "the basic unit of learning is the conditioned reflex" (Watson, 1997), there is the nativist approach. The nativist theory is based on a completely new approach towards first language acquisition. In 1965, Noam Chomsky introduced the concept of LAD, standing for the language acquisition device. (Brown, 2000) As well as Lenneberg (1967) with his concept of "species-specific" behaviour, Chomsky observed that that the ability to acquire a language is inborn to humans.

However, inborn does not mean that when we are born, we are immediately able to master a language fully and on its all levels. The language acquisition is a gradual process, with the result being influenced by several other factors, e.g. social interaction.

First and second language acquisition are comparable processes. Krashen (1985) says that there are different stages in learning second language starting with the silent period. The silent period is followed by stages when we first learn the simpler structures and after the structures with higher complexity. The use of modified language for children is well demonstrated in children's literature. According to Krashen's input hypothesis, learning is the most effective when the material we learn corresponds with our present knowledge and when it is slightly above it.

Brown (1973) introduces his acquisition order for grammatical morphemes, where he specifies the order of structures acquisition.

Table adapted from: Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

This order is a result of Brown's longitudinal research which concentrated on the semantic and grammatical development of children's speech.

With regard to the target group of the analyzed texts, we shall concentrate on the later stages of the first language development.