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Title:When production precedes comprehension: An optimization approach to the acquisition of pronouns
Authors:Petra Hendriks, Jennifer Spenader
Comment:Accepted for publication in Language Acquisition. Please contact copyright holder Lawrence Erlbaum Associates for permission to reprint or use the material in any form.
Abstract:Data from child language comprehension shows that children make errors in interpreting pronouns as late as age 6;6, yet correctly comprehend reflexives from the age of 3;0. On the other hand, data from child language production shows that children correctly produce both pronouns and reflexives from the age of 2 or 3. Current explanations of this asymmetric delay in comprehension have either rejected the comprehension data outright or have argued that the problems are pragmatic or caused by processing limitations. In contrast our account, formulated in the framework of Optimality Theory, handles the comprehension data as well as the production data by arguing that children acquire the ability to reason about alternatives available to other conversation participants relatively late. It is this type of bidirectional reasoning, we argue, that is necessary for correctly interpreting pronouns. While our analysis is similar in spirit to the processing account given in Grodzinsky and Reinhart (1993) and Reinhart (to appear), it explains the data from the properties of the grammar, and is supported by related experimental evidence.
Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:Language Acquisition,Semantics
Article:Version 1