LINGUIST List 7.1080

Tue Jul 30 1996

Disc: Child `case' Re: vol-7-1062

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Dick Hudson, Child `case' vol-7-1062

Message 1: Child `case' vol-7-1062

Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 09:19:19 BST
From: Dick Hudson <>
Subject: Child `case' vol-7-1062
Vincent de Caen's interesting report on his 4-year old daughter's use of
pronoun forms:

>only if the event were bounded and strongly transitive would she use
>"she". otherwise, the pronoun was "her" (and of course, trying to
>correct this was useless). "her's sick" "her's going to the store".
>similarly "him's sick" etc.

He thinks this may be explained by something in UG, but surely it's more
likely to be explained by some fact about English. The fact is that "she",
"he" etc are already restricted in a way that can't be explained by UG
Case-assignment principles because grammatical function interacts with
coordination. All (?) children acquiring English use "her" in preference to
"she" in sentences like "Mary and _ came". (I've argued in Journal of
Linguistics (31:375-92, 1995) that facts like this show that English no
longer has case.) This is very odd if every child knows the UG principles
for Case and is looking for reflexes of the various Cases. Maybe Miss de
Caen was simply trying to understand her experience (generally "her", but
sometimes "she"); lacking UG, she had no particular reason for preferring an
explanation in terms of subject vs non-subject, so she opted for
transitivity. This makes sense if super-transitive sentences are those in
which the roles of the subject and object referents are most clearly
differentiated (as controller/energy-source/responsible etc vs
affected/stationary/irresponsible etc); what could be more natural than to
make the pronoun forms as differentiated as possible too?
Richard Hudson
Department of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
work phone +171 419 3152; work fax +171 383 4108
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