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Subject and object omission in children's early transitive constructions: A discourse-pragmatic approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2014

EILEEN GRAF
Affiliation:
Max Planck Child Study Centre and University of Manchester
ANNA THEAKSTON*
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
ELENA LIEVEN
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, and University of Manchester
MICHAEL TOMASELLO
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
*
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Anna Theakston, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK. E-mail: anna.theakston@manchester.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper investigates discourse effects on the provision of both subjects and objects and investigates whether pragmatic discourse features govern the realization/omission of both constituents alike. In an elicitation study, we examined how the discourse-pragmatic feature contrast, as applied to the subject, verb, or object of a transitive utterance affected the provision of elements in the remainder of the sentence when all elements were previously introduced. The results showed that 3.5-year-old children were more likely to realize a contrasted argument with a lexical noun but more likely to omit the argument when it was not part of a contrast, regardless of its subject or object status. This suggests that contrast presents a unifying discourse feature for argument omission in language development.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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