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Comprehension and Production of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases in English Preschoolers
Angeliek van Hout, Kaitlyn Harrigan, and Jill de Villiers
76-87 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


It is well known that children incorrectly produce definite NPs instead of indefinite NPs when referring to new referents in a discourse. The explanations for the overuse of the have postulated cognitive, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic problems (Karmiloff-Smith, 1979; Maratsos, 1974; Schaeffer and Matthewson, 2005; Schafer and de Villiers, 2000; Wexler, 2003). Van Hout, Harrigan and De Villiers compared production and comprehension of English definite and indefinite NPs. In the comprehension task the preschoolers over-allowed the to refer to a new referent, which mirrored their over-use of the for new referents in the production task. The authors interpret these findings as a failure to simultaneously take speaker and hearer perspectives into account. Instead, for children the visual context suffices to establish the anaphoric reference of definites.

Published in

Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2008)
edited by Jean Crawford, Koichi Otaki, and Masahiko Takahashi
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Printed edition: $320.00