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A cross-linguistic investigation of the acquisition of the pragmatics of indefinite and definite reference in two-year-olds*

  • MARGOT ISABELLA ROZENDAAL (a1) and ANNE EDITH BAKER (a1)

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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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Margot Rozendaal, Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Fax: +31 (0)20-525 3021; e-mail: m.i.rozendaal@uva.nl

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[*]

We would like to thank Maya Hickmann and Elisabeth van der Linden for their advice on the data coding of French, and Cécile de Cat, Marie-Thérèse Le Normand, Marianne Kilani-Schoch and Marlies van der Velde for sharing information on MLU development in French. Furthermore, we are greatly indebted to Rob Schoonen for his advice on the statistical analyses in this article. Finally, we would also like to thank the participants at the IASCL conference (Berlin, July 2005) and at the conference of Emergence of Linguistic Abilities (Lyon, December 2005) as well as Elma Blom, Marian Erkelens, Henriette Hendriks, Elena Lieven, Danielle Matthews and Daniela Polisénska, and two anonymous reviewers, for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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References

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A cross-linguistic investigation of the acquisition of the pragmatics of indefinite and definite reference in two-year-olds*

  • MARGOT ISABELLA ROZENDAAL (a1) and ANNE EDITH BAKER (a1)

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