This book investigates the acquisition of pronominal elements by monolingual
children acquiring English and Brazilian Portuguese as their native languages.
Previous studies have found non-adult behavior in children’s use and
comprehension of pronouns in two syntactic contexts: resumptive pronouns
in relative clauses and anaphoric pronouns bound by argumental noun
phrases. Children perform similarly on both contexts, incorrectly accepting
these cases at chance level. The age-range when this chance performance is
detected is the same in both cases, around 4 and 5 years.
The present study offers a unifying account for such behavior, assuming that
bound pronouns are always last resort, whose use requires trans-derivational
comparison. Along the lines of previous work done by Grodzinsky and
Reinhart (1993), it is claimed that such a comparison is too demanding for
young children, as their limited working memory cannot handle complex
Two sets of experiments were carried out, testing the same children on both
contexts. The results show that those behaving at chance in one context had
the same behavior in the other. They also showed that children had chance
level performance not only with pronouns bound by referential antecedents,
but also with quantified ones.
These results are compatible with the view that children’s problems with
bound pronouns are related to processing difficulties rather than to the lack of
some linguistic knowledge.