General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 7 September, 2017 12:00 to 12:30

Oral presentation

Topic-first or Subject-first? A study on children’s interpretation of Corrective Focus in the Italian Left-Periphery.

Speaker: Camilla Covazzi, Università degli Studi di Padova

Authors: Camilla Covazzi

In this experiment we tested the interpretation of corrective focus in sentences with non-canonical word order in Italian adults and children at age 5. Italian permits DP DP V strings allowing for both a SOV and a OSV interpretation. Previous studies (Moscati et al. 2015) showed that both children and adults favour the Subject-Object-Verb interpretation. Since in that study the subject was always given information, those results were open to different interpretations: the preference could be either explained by invoking a “subject-first” bias favouring the SOV interpretation, or a “topic- first” bias that favours given information first. In order to disentangle between the “subject-first” and the “topic-first” preference, we tested constructions in which the subject was focal and the object topical. While both children and adults had no general problem in understanding the experimental task and correctly judged SVO sentences, they showed two opposite patterns in the experimental conditions: adults had less troubles in correctly accepting (or rejecting) OSV “topic-first” sentences; children instead showed the opposite pattern and they found easier SOV, the subject-first sentences. This result supports the conclusion that a “subject-first” bias is operative in child language (Schlesewsky et al 2000), regardless of the information structure assigned to the initial constituent. Adults, on the contrary, show a greater sensitivity to IS: once the subject is made focal, the preference for subject-first sentences found in Moscati et al (2015) disappears. In this case, adults prefer the OSV constructions respecting instead the Topic>Focus structure.

Further information:

L1 acquisition - Session I

Other activities in L1 acquisition - Session I

12:30 h. to 13:00 h.

Oral presentation

Early acquisition of the focus expression sika-nai ‘nothing but’ in Japanese: Absence of sentential-scope interpretations and non-association of sika with topic phrases

Speaker: Kyoko Yamakoshi, Ochanomizu University

13:00 h. to 13:30 h.

Oral presentation

Distinct Developmental Patterns for Anaphoric vs Logophoric Ziji

Speaker: Yi-ching Su, National Tsing Hua University

11:30 h. to 12:00 h.

Oral presentation

Animacy does not affect the production of relative clauses: evidence from French

Speaker: Karen Martini, Université de Genève