General programme, activity sheet

Friday 9 September, 2016 10:00 to 10:30 Oral presentation
Dislocation and topic marking: A comparative study of French and German
Speaker: Janina Klein, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3

Authors: Janina KLEIN


Dislocation is an important feature of spoken French, especially in child language and child directed speech (cf. De Cat, 2007). It is also strongly associated with topic marking (cf. ibid., see also Lambrecht, 1994). In German, dislocation exists as a structural possibility as well, but is nevertheless much less exploited (cf. Altmann, 1981 for a typology of German dislocation). This is probably one of the reasons why there are yet very few studies on dislocation in (monolingual) child language acquisition. In this study, we analyze the relation between language specific structural features and the use of referring expressions in dialogue. Comparing French with a language like German, that uses radically different linguistic means to convey topicality, allows for a more robust statement on pragmatic competence, if similar discourse functions are expressed, at the same ages, by different linguistic means in different languages. 5 French- and 5 German-speaking mother-child dyads (children’s ages between 2;00 and 2;05, MLU between 1.45 and 2.96) were audio- and videotaped in natural interactions at their home. Null forms, nouns, pronouns and dislocations were identified and analyzed according to morpho-syntactic features, pre- or postverbal position in the utterance, information status, position in dialogue and topicality. Our results suggest that dislocation is largely used for topic marking in French, whereas it coexists with prosodic proeminence, word-order variation, topic-drop and lexical over-specification in German. They also show that dislocation and other means of highlighting a referent are used in a very similar manner by children and mothers. Discussion will deal with the relative importance and interaction of linguistic and discourse-pragmatic factors involved in acquisition and use of referring expressions and topic marking. ALTMANN, H. (1981). Formen der « Herausstellung » im Deutschen. Max Niemeyer Verlag. DE CAT, C. (2007). French Dislocation: Interpretation, Syntax, Acquisition. OUP Oxford. LAMBRECHT, K. (1994). Information structure and sentence form : topic, focus, and the mental representations of discourse referents. Cambridge New York Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
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Discourse and pragmatic development
Place: Room B-11

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