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Academic Paper


Title: A Cross-Linguistic Investigation of the Acquisition of the Pragmatics of Indefinite and Definite Reference in Two-Year-Olds
Author: Margot Isabella Rozendaal
Institution: Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, University of Amsterdam
Author: Anne Edith Baker
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://[email protected]
Institution: University of Amsterdam
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax
Subject Language: Dutch
English
French
Abstract: The acquisition of reference involves both morphosyntax and pragmatics. This study investigates whether Dutch, English and French two- to three-year-old children differentiate in their use of determiners between non-specific/specific reference, newness/givenness in discourse and mutual/no mutual knowledge between interlocutors. A brief analysis of the input shows a clear association between form and function, although there are some language differences in this respect. As soon as determiner use can be statistically analyzed, the children show a relatively adult-like pattern of association for the distinctions of non-specific/specific and newness/givenness. The distinction between mutual/no mutual knowledge appears later. Reference involving no mutual knowledge is scarcely evidenced in the input and barely used by the children at this age. The development of associations is clearly related to the rate of determiner development, the French being quickest, then the English, then the Dutch.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 35, Issue 4.

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