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Bookmark and Share Paper 2331

Tell Me a Story! Children's Capacity for Topic Shift
Ellis Wubs, Petra Hendriks, John Hoeks, and Charlotte Koster
313-324 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The interdependence of a speaker's linguistic choice of referring expressions on a listener's perspective can be formally modeled in bidirectional Optimality Theory. During language acquisition, children are argued to optimize only unidirectionally, which results in their overly economical production of unrecoverable pronouns after topic shift and their comprehension failure of full NPs as signaling topic shift. These predictions pertaining to children's capacity for topic shift were tested in parallel production and comprehension discourse experiments involving Dutch children and adults. The results confirmed the bidirectional Optimality Theory model: the children did not take their conversational partner's linguistic situation into consideration and did not select optimal form-meaning pairs in discourses involving topic shift. It is this aspect of the children's developing grammar which leads to a delay in the appropriate production of pronouns as well as the comprehension of topic shift.

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
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00