LING 822: Seminar on Language Acquisition

The Acquisition of Pronominal Clitics

Instructor: Clifton Pye (pyersqr at ku dot edu)

Office Hours: Thurs 2:00-4:00 or by appointment

      This seminar will survey the literature on the acquisition of verb arguments with a special focus on the acquisition of subject and object clitics. Verb arguments have long played a prominent role in the acquisition literature, and have special significance for the acquisition of phrase structure, null arguments and finiteness. Children must determine which argument is the subject, whether the subject is obligatory in finite clauses and whether the subject is obligatory in existential or embedded clauses. Verb arguments may be expressed as full NPs, pronouns, pronominal clitics or by agreement markers on verbs. The significance of the distinction between pronouns, pronominal clitics and agreement remains relatively unexplored in the acquisition literature.

      The seminar will consist of class discussions of the assigned readings and their implications for the acquisition of verb arguments. Each student will be responsible for leading the class discussion on a particular reading. In addition to the reading and class discussion each student is required to write a paper discussing the acquisition of some aspect of verb arguments. The paper might examine, for example, the relation between finiteness and clitic agreement in a specific language. The seminar will be organized as a workshop. Students will present a preliminary version of their paper in class, and refine their concepts through class discussion. They will then be asked to present a final revision of their paper that incorporates suggestions from the class and the instructor.

Readings will include the following articles:

Hamann, C., Rizzi, L. & Frauenfelder, U. H. 1998. On the acquisition of subject and object clitics in French. In H. Clahsen (ed), Generative Perspectives on Language Acquisition, 309-334. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hoekstra, T. and N. Hyams. 1998. Aspects of Root Infinitives. Lingua 106:81-112.

Pye, C., Barbara Pfeiler & Pedro Mateo Pedro. In press. The Acquisition of Extended Ergativity in Mam, Q’anjob’al and Yucatec. In Edith Bavin & Sabine Stoll (Eds.), The Acquisition of Ergativity. John Benjamins: Amsterdam.

Rizzi, L. 1993/1994. Some notes on linguistic theory and language development: The case of root infinitives. Language Acquisition 3.371-393.

Wexler, K. 1998. Very early parameter setting and the unique checking constraint: A new explanation of the optional infinitive stage. Lingua 106.23-79.

Woolford, Ellen. 2000. Ergative agreement systems. The University of Maryland Working Papers in Linguistics 10.157-191.