General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 18 September, 2014 12:30 to 13:00 Oral presentation
The acquistion of first and second person clitics and some implications
Authors: Anna Gavarró and Noemí Fortón

Although there is extensive work on the acquisition of third person clitics and numerous theories have been put forward to account for their develoment, there is very little experimental work on other Romance pronominal clitics. Here we focus on the acquisition of first and second person clitics, and use them to evaluate two theories on the acquisition of clitics, namely the Unique Checking Constraint (Wexler 1998, Gavarró et al. 2010) and the complexity theory as outlined in Tuller et al. (2011). We designed an elicitation task inspired in Silva's (2008) experiment for European Portuguese, replicated later for Catalan by Rafel (2013). We slightly modified that design to avoid previous shortcomings and tested a wider age range, starting with 2-year-olds, a total of 45 children and 10 adult controls. Each subject was tested on 8 items, counterbalanced for person (first vs. second). Details of the subjects appear in (1) and the results of the experiment appear in (2). What is striking about the results is the very low rates of clitic omission (corroborated by the spontaneous production results in (3)), which contrast with what is known about third person clitic omission in languages like French and Catalan. The two theories considered predict better performance on first/second person clitics, the first because they do not trigger double-checking for lack of participle agreement (4), the second because third person is discourse-dependent and thus judged more complex. Yet, when we turn to other clitics, third person clitics in languages other than Catalan and French, for example Spanish, Greek and Albanian, the complexity theory incorrectly predicts homogeneous behaviour across languages. Thus we argue that the UCC account is empirically more accurate. Further, it allows us to dispense with a theory of clitic acquisition, since under the UCC nothing hinges on the clitic property of pronominals. (300 words)
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Submited paper (129 KB)

Paper session A2
Place: Main Room

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