In a recent paper in Applied Psycholinguistics, Stein, Cairns, and Zurif (1984) demonstrate that reading disabled children perform at a less advanced level relative to normals of the same age in comprehending a number of complex sentence types, including sentences with temporal adverbial clauses, such as (1): 1. The pig kissed the cow after jumping over the fence. (Please see erratum page at back of this issue for the corrected figures concerning this sentence from the Stein, Cairns, and Zurif article.)
While adults require the (missing) subject of jump in (1) to be interpreted as coreferential with the main clause subject (the pig in the example), normal children are frequently 6 or older before they develop this restriction, permitting a direct object NP (the cow in the example) to be made subject of (to control) the temporal clause. Stein et al. demonstrate that reading disabled children are slower than normals to develop the adult rule, a finding that generalized over both their comprehension of written and spoken language. In what follows, I point out some difficulties with the analysis of the adult grammar and normal development that Stein et al. adopt, and speculate on alternative ways of dealing with the facts of grammar and development for sentences of type (1). To the extent that these speculations are correct, our view of the nature of deficits may also be changed.