|Title:||The Acquisition of Tough-Movement in English||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||D. Anderson||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||University of Cambridge, Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Language Acquisition;|
|Abstract:||In the acquisition literature, it is traditionally claimed that tough-movement or easy-to-please constructions (hereafter, tough constructions or TCs) are particularly problematic for child speakers of English and are consequently late-acquired. While Carol Chomsky (1969) was the first to advance such a claim, on the basis of her experimental findings, the results of a number of subsequent studies have been taken to provide further support for this contention. Nevertheless, it has yet to be determined precisely why children find these structures so problematic.
Cromer (1970) was the first to propose the now widely accepted claim that there are three clearly definable stages in the acquisition of the TC. In the Primitive-Rule Use stage, it is hypothesized that the child mistakenly assumes that co-reference holds between the subject of the TC and embedded infinitive PRO due to her reliance on the use of surface structure cues for the interpretation of the TC rather than syntactic ability. In the Intermediate stage, the child performs in an inconsistent or random manner when asked to interpret the TC, which is standardly taken to indicate that at least certain target-like knowledge of the structure has been acquired by this stage, even though its deployment remains unreliable. Finally, subjects in the third category are labeled Passers as they consistently display target-like ability to interpret the TC.
In this thesis, I challenge the traditional characterization of the Intermediate stage as one marked by the child’s intermittent or unreliable application of target-like grammatical knowledge. Instead, I offer empirical evidence in support of the alternative view that the child’s grammar in the Intermediate stage licenses two readings of the TC, where the adult grammar licenses only one. In this respect, I maintain that the Intermediate grammar is more accurately characterized as being different from the adult grammar rather than as being deficient.
Finally, I develop a theoretical analysis of the Intermediate stage which links the availability of an alternative, non-target-like reading of the TC with a syntactic option for tough adjectives that was licensed in previous stages of English. Specifically, I propose that children in this stage allow syntactic promotion of the experiencer argument of the tough predicate, consistent with a grammatical option that was earlier attested in English and consistent with grammatical options made available by universal grammar (UG). Learnability considerations raised by this claim are addressed in part by appealing to both the typological as well as developmental markedness of the adult interpretation of the TC in present-day English.