The ability to make clear reference in connected discourse was examined in children learning Cantonese, a Chinese language where noun phrase constituents, whatever their grammatical role, are omissible from sentences under discourse conditions that are not well-understood. Forty-three typically developing children aged 3;0, 5;0, 7;0 and 12;0 told 16 stories based on picture sequences. A panel of adult native Cantonese speakers was asked to judge the referential adequacy of each child's stories by identifying the character the child was talking about in 32 targeted referential acts. The targeted acts were of three sorts: MAINTENANCE of a known character, INTRODUCTION of a second new character, and REINTRODUCTION of a known character. Reference was judged to be adequate when 3 out of 4 ‘listeners’ could successfully identify the character. Children's referential expressions were most adequate for Maintenance, less adequate for Introduction, and least adequate for Reintroduction. The twelve- and seven-year-olds approached ceiling on all three functions. The five-year-olds scored poorly on Reintroduction, and the three-year-olds failed both Introduction and Reintroduction, despite knowledge of at least one of the possible linguistic forms required for these acts as evidenced in a sentence imitation task. Viewed within the framework of Levelt's (1989) discourse model, the data improve our understanding of the developmental period during which children learn to make appropriate presuppositions about the listener's knowledge and attentional states.