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LINGUIST List 18.1878

Thu Jun 21 2007

Diss: Lang Acquisition: Grolla: 'Pronouns as Elsewhere Elements: Im...'

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        1.    Elaine Grolla, Pronouns as Elsewhere Elements: Implications for language acquisition

Message 1: Pronouns as Elsewhere Elements: Implications for language acquisition
Date: 20-Jun-2007
From: Elaine Grolla <egrollausp.br>
Subject: Pronouns as Elsewhere Elements: Implications for language acquisition

Institution: University of Connecticut
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Elaine Grolla

Dissertation Title: Pronouns as Elsewhere Elements: Implications for language acquisition

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Portuguese (por)

Dissertation Director:
Howard Lasnik
Diane Lillo-Martin
William Snyder

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the acquisition of A- and A'-bound pronouns
in Brazilian Portuguese and English. Previous studies on the acquisition of
pronouns have found that children behave at chance level when pronouns with
local antecedents in A and A' positions are tested.

The hypothesis under investigation here is that children performed poorly
in tests with locally A- and A'-bound pronouns because the source of the
problem is the same. There are several reasons to pursue a unifying
approach. First, both constructions involve pronouns. Second, results of
studies in several languages indicate that children perform similarly on
both tests, incorrectly accepting these cases at chance level. And third,
the age-range when this chance performance is detected is the same in both
cases, that is, around 4 and 5 years of age.

Following Hornstein (2001), I assume that (A- and A'-) bound pronouns are
elsewhere elements, that can only be inserted in a derivation if needed for
convergence. Adopting Grodzinsky and Reinhart's (1993) hypothesis, I claim
that such a condition is too demanding for young children, as their limited
working memory cannot handle complex computations, such as those required
in order to assess if bound pronouns are licit in a derivation.

Using the grammaticality judgment task, the same Brazilian Portuguese- and
English-speaking children were interviewed on two experiments, one
involving A-bound pronouns and another involving A'-bound pronouns. The
data revealed that the majority of the children performed at chance level
(50% correct responses) when A'-bound pronouns placed in extractable
positions were tested (*the frog that he is skating is happy). Children
also behaved at chance level when pronouns locally A-bound by both
referential and quantified antecedents were tested (*the dogi/every dogi is
scratching himi). Importantly, children did not behave at chance in control
cases where the kind of computation mentioned above is not necessary. In
these cases, children behaved at ceiling. These results support the
hypothesis under investigation here, indicating that children's problems
with pronouns is related to processing problems rather than to the lack of
some linguistic knowledge.

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