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Academic Paper


Title: The acquisition of pronouns by French children: A parallel study of production and comprehension
Author: Pascal Zesiger
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Laurence Chillier Zesiger
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Marina Arabatzi
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Lara Baranzini
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Stéphany Cronel-Ohayon
Institution: Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois Lausanne
Author: Julie Franck
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Ulrich Hans Frauenfelder
Institution: University of Geneva
Author: Cornelia Hamann
Institution: Universität Oldenburg
Author: Luigi Rizzi
Institution: Università degli Studi di Siena
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: French
Abstract: This study examines syntactic and morphological aspects of the production and comprehension of pronouns by 99 typically developing French-speaking children aged 3 years, 5 months to 6 years, 5 months. A fine structural analysis of subject, object, and reflexive clitics suggests that whereas the object clitic chain crosses the subject chain, the reflexive clitic chain is nested within it. We argue that this structural difference introduces differences in processing complexity, chain crossing being more complex than nesting. In support of this analysis, both production and comprehension experiments show that children have more difficulty with object than with reflexive clitics (with more omissions in production and more erroneous judgments in sentences involving Principle B in comprehension). Concerning the morphological aspect, French subject and object pronouns agree in gender with their referent. We report serious difficulties with pronoun gender both in production and comprehension in children around the age of 4 (with nearly 30% errors in production and chance level judgments in comprehension), which tend to disappear by age 6. The distribution of errors further suggests that the masculine gender is processed as the default value. These findings provide further insights into the relationship between comprehension and production in the acquisition process.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Applied Psycholinguistics Vol. 31, Issue 4, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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