Based on the theory proposed in Frascarelli (2007), according to which the interpretation of null subjects depends on an Agree relation between pro and a specific type of Topic (i.e. the A-Topic, cf. Frascarelli & Hinterhölzl 2007), the first objective of this paper is to evaluate this theory from an acquisitional perspective on children from 3 to 9 years old. Furthermore, since the A-Topic is argued to be systematically associated to specific discourse, prosodic and syntactic properties, a second objective of this paper is to check whether the relevant acquisition correlates with information-structural and interface-related competences. Based on an original experiment designed to examine Topic chains in children’s narrative, evidence is provided that this productive ability is not fully acquired at the age of 9 and that its progress proceeds in three steps, involving different levels of grammar. Specifically, in a first phase children tend to assume their personal experience and discourse intentions as familiar to their interlocutors. Hence, they start their narration linking null subjects to silent A-Topics, without overt links for their interpretation (‘Emperor Strategy’). Then, at the age of 6 the creation of Topic chains seems to be part of children’s competence at a discourse-syntactic level and overt copies are progressively produced in the chains. Nevertheless, since children still assume their ‘hero’ to be a familiar entity, G[iven]-Topics are frequently realised as first link for null subjects. Finally, at around 7–7.11 the adult-like association between discourse-syntactic and prosodic properties is attested.

Frascarelli, M., Carella, G. (2019). Topic chains and the interpretation of null subjects. The acquisition of discourse-related strategies in Italian children. THE LINGUISTIC REVIEW, 36(4), 637-674 [10.1515/tlr-2019-2018].

Topic chains and the interpretation of null subjects. The acquisition of discourse-related strategies in Italian children

Mara Frascarelli
Formal Analysis
;
CARELLA, GIORGIO
Formal Analysis
2019-01-01

Abstract

Based on the theory proposed in Frascarelli (2007), according to which the interpretation of null subjects depends on an Agree relation between pro and a specific type of Topic (i.e. the A-Topic, cf. Frascarelli & Hinterhölzl 2007), the first objective of this paper is to evaluate this theory from an acquisitional perspective on children from 3 to 9 years old. Furthermore, since the A-Topic is argued to be systematically associated to specific discourse, prosodic and syntactic properties, a second objective of this paper is to check whether the relevant acquisition correlates with information-structural and interface-related competences. Based on an original experiment designed to examine Topic chains in children’s narrative, evidence is provided that this productive ability is not fully acquired at the age of 9 and that its progress proceeds in three steps, involving different levels of grammar. Specifically, in a first phase children tend to assume their personal experience and discourse intentions as familiar to their interlocutors. Hence, they start their narration linking null subjects to silent A-Topics, without overt links for their interpretation (‘Emperor Strategy’). Then, at the age of 6 the creation of Topic chains seems to be part of children’s competence at a discourse-syntactic level and overt copies are progressively produced in the chains. Nevertheless, since children still assume their ‘hero’ to be a familiar entity, G[iven]-Topics are frequently realised as first link for null subjects. Finally, at around 7–7.11 the adult-like association between discourse-syntactic and prosodic properties is attested.
Frascarelli, M., Carella, G. (2019). Topic chains and the interpretation of null subjects. The acquisition of discourse-related strategies in Italian children. THE LINGUISTIC REVIEW, 36(4), 637-674 [10.1515/tlr-2019-2018].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/350173
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