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Subjects, Topicalizations and Wh- Questions in Child German and Southern Romance
Patti Spinner and John Grinstead
241-251 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Evidence from child language development supports the position that overt subjects in Southern Romance languages are left-peripheral, Topic-Focus constituents. Specifically, overt subjects begin to be used at the same time as other less controversially left-peripheral, Topic-Focus constituents, such as fronted objects and wh- questions. However, this interpretation of the data would be much more compelling if it could be shown that these constituents do not emerge at the same time in the speech of children learning languages in which overt subjects are obligatory, independent of discourse considerations, such as German. To this end, we examined the speech of two longitudinally studied German-speaking children, Simone and Caroline. We also examined the data of Katrin and Andreas, which was collected on a single day for each. These children's data show that overt subjects begin to be used significantly earlier than do topicalizations and wh- questions which supports the hypothesis that child Southern Romance and child German are different with respect to the timing of the development of these constituents. We believe that this reflects the children's early knowledge of the structure of their target adult languages, which in the case of Southern Romance, includes left-peripheral, discourse-sensitive subjects.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Nuria Sagarra and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio
Table of contents
Printed edition: $250.00