This paper presents evidence from a novel truth value judgment task designed to investigate whether French- and English-speaking children accept interpretations requiring a referential null object. Results show that French-speaking (n=17) and English-speaking (n=10) children aged three and four reject such interpretations at equally high rates (85-90%). These findings constitute counterevidence to developmental analyses of object (clitic) omission in child French production which attribute such omissions to a (non-target) null object representation sanctioned by the child grammar (Müller et al. 1996, Pérez-Leroux et al. 2006). The results from the experiment presented here, together with the well-attested observation that French-speaking children continue to omit object clitics in their speech beyond age three, are found not to be compatible with any previous hypotheses in the developmental literature. In consequence, an alternative approach is outlined, which locates the source of the problem in limitations within a grammar(UG)-external domain, namely in the capacity of the 'workspace,' a domain that presumably lies within the more general realm of working memory.
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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