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LINGUIST List 18.115

Fri Jan 12 2007

Diss: Lang Acquisition/Psycholing/Syntax: Grueter: 'Object Clitics ...'

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        1.    Theres Grueter, Object Clitics and Null Objects in the Acquisition of French


Message 1: Object Clitics and Null Objects in the Acquisition of French
Date: 12-Jan-2007
From: Theres Grueter <theres.grutermail.mcgill.ca>
Subject: Object Clitics and Null Objects in the Acquisition of French


Institution: McGill University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Theres Grueter

Dissertation Title: Object Clitics and Null Objects in the Acquisition of French

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Psycholinguistics
                            Syntax

Subject Language(s): French (fra)

Dissertation Director:
Martha Crago
Kyle Johnson
Lydia White

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates (direct) object clitics and object omission
in the acquisition of French as a first language. It reports on two
original empirical studies which were designed to address aspects of object
omission in child French that have remained unexplored in previous research.

Study 1 investigates the incidence of object omission in the spontaneous
speech of French-speaking children aged three and above, an age group for
which no analysis, and only little data, have been available so far.
Findings show that object omission continues to occur at non-negligible
rates in this group. A comparison with age- and language-matched groups of
English- and Chinese-speaking children (from Wang, Lillo-Martin, Best and
Levitt 1992) suggests that French-speaking children omit objects at higher
rates than their English-speaking peers, yet at lower rates than children
acquiring a true null object language, such as Chinese.

Study 2 was designed to investigate whether French-speaking children would
accept null objects on a receptive task, an issue that has not been
previously investigated. A series of truth value judgment experiments is
developed, adapting an experimental paradigm that has not been used
previously in the context of null objects. Results from English- and
French-speaking children show that both groups consistently reject null
objects on these tasks, a finding that constitutes counterevidence to
proposals which attribute object omission in production to a genuine null
object representation sanctioned by the child grammar.

Overall, the pattern of results turns out not to be consistent with any
developmental proposals made in the literature, suggesting that a novel
approach is required. Proposing a minimalist adaptation of Sportiche's
(1996) analysis of clitic constructions, and taking into consideration the
recent emphasis on 'interface' requirements imposed by language-external
systems, I put forward a hypothesis for future research, the Decayed
Features Hypothesis (DFH), which locates the source of object (clitic)
omission in child French in a specific language-external domain, namely the
capacity of working memory.



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