This paper undertakes the study of the acquisition of subjects, null and overt, in Catalan, a null subject language. Considering the longitudinal corpora of three Catalan-speaking children and the productions of the adults interacting with them, the authors observe that the proportion of null and overt subjects in child production is equivalent to that in adult Catalan after an initial period (up to MLU 2.5) with a higher rate of null subjects—against Grinstead (2004), there is no period in which subjects are banned. The early emergence of subjects shows not only the availability of mechanisms of the computational system, but also sensitivity to the pragmatic interface which dictates use of overt subjects. Concentrating on monoargumental classes, there is a sharp contrast with respect to subject placement: while unaccusative subjects are postverbal in 64% of cases, with unergatives subjects are postverbal in only 33.3% of cases. Verb classes are distinguished from early on, but unaccusatives present a higher rate of postverbal subjects in children than in adults; the fact that unaccusatives single themselves out in an otherwise early target-like behavior is reminiscent of the findings with passives and unaccusatives in the literature.
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
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