General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 18 September, 2014 18:00 to 18:30 Oral presentation
Acquisition of control in European Portuguese: Some facts about comprehension
Authors: Celina Agostinho, Ana Lúcia Santos, Inês Duarte


It is generally assumed that children have early knowledge of control in complement clauses (complements of promise are the exception), although very young children may have non-obligatory control readings of obligatorily controlled subjects (MacDaniel & Cairns, 1990b; McDaniel et al., 1991; Landau & Thornton, 2011). As an explanation, it has been suggested that the syntactic representation of complement clauses is non target-like in child grammar (McDaniel et al., 1991), or alternatively that knowledge of the syntax of control is continuous, and developmental effects follow from lexical acquisition (Sherman & Lust 1993). A comprehension task based on McDaniel and Cairns (1990a, b) was applied to 57 children (3 to 5 years) and 20 adults. It comprises four test conditions: (i) subject control, transitive (1a) and ditransitive verbs (1b), (ii) object Control, direct (2a) and indirect objects (2b), (iii) subject complement clauses (3), and (iv) cases of pragmatically determined interpretation (pedir para ‘ask’) (4). Children identify obligatory control and non-obligatory control contexts, choosing an unmentioned character as the antecedent only in subject complement clauses. Subject control is also not problematic except for the case of prometer ‘promise’, a fact that could result from intervention effects (Friedmann, Belletti & Rizzi 2009; Orfitelli 2012 for similar effects on A-movement) if control is movement (Hornstein, 1999). However, these effects may also result from a misanalysis of the argument structure of verbs with two arguments (a DP and a clausal argument). Recently, Santos, Gonçalves & Hyams (2013) showed that children between 3 and 5 years misanalyse object control verbs as verbs taking a single internal argument: they take the object DP to be the subject of the infinitive. This analysis predicts better comprehension results with object control verbs presenting more cases of misanalysis (proibir ‘forbid’). Our data shows that this prediction is confirmed. (1) a. O esquilo consegue trazer uma maçã. the squirrel manage-3PS bring-INF an apple. “The squirrel manages to bring an apple.” b. O galo promete ao coelho cozinhar o jantar. the rooster promise-3PS to+the rabbit cook-INF the dinner “The rooster promises the rabbit to cook dinner.” (2) a. O ouriço proíbe o esquilo de tomar banho no lago. the hedgehog forbid-3PS the squirrel of take-INF bath in+the lake “The hedgehog forbids the squirrel to bathe in the lake.” b. O cisne diz ao pato para arranjar comida. the swan tell-3PS to+the duck to get-INF food “The swan tells the duck to get food.” (3) Sair da lagoa chateia o elefante. leave-INF from+the lagoon bother-3PS the elephant “To leave the lagoon bothers the elephant.” (4) O touro pede ao burro para tocar à campainha. the bull ask-3PS to+the donkey to ring-INF to+the bell “The bull asks the donkey to ring the bell.” References: Friedmann, N., A. Belletti & L. Rizzi. (2009) Relativized relatives: Types of intervention in the acquisition of A-bar dependencies. Lingua 119. 67-88. Hornstein, N. (1999) Movement and control. Linguistic Inquiry 30: 69-96. Landau, I. & R. Thornton (2011). Early child Control. Lingua 121, 920-941. McDaniel, D. & H. S. Cairns (1990a) The child as informant: Eliciting linguistic intuitions from young children. In Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 19 (5), 331-344. ---. (1990b) The processing and acquisition of control structures by young children. In Lyn Frazier & Jill de Villiers (Eds.) Language Processing and Language Acquisition Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics 10, 313-325. McDaniel, D., H. S. Cairns & J. R. Hsu (1991) Control principles in the grammar of young children. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics. 1.121-38. Orfitelli, R. (2012) Argument Intervention in the Acquisition of A-Movement. PhD Dissertation, UCLA. Santos, A.L., A. Gonçalves & N. Hyams (2013) Aspects of the acquisition of control and ECM-type verbs in European Portuguese. Talk given at Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition. University of Oldenburg. Sherman, J.C. & B. Lust (1993) Children are in control. Cognition 46, 1-51.
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Paper session C
Place: Main Room

Other activities in Paper session C
17:00 h. to 17:30 h.Oral presentation

On the L2 acquisition of Spanish subject-verb inversion by Dutch speakers
17:30 h. to 18:00 h.Oral presentation

Illusory specificity with Spanish 'algunos'


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