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Information structure lecture series 2007 -

Abstract Szendroi

Children seem to produce focus and focal stress correctly from the two-word stage. At the same time, their comprehension abilities lags behind until they are 6 years old. Such a mismatch between production and comprehension is paradoxical. I propose to resolve the paradox in a way that maintains the assumption that focus is an innate linguistics concept, and that children have access to it from an early age. In particular, I will argue that children's adultlike production is evidence of their innate knowledge of focus. However, an independent problem masks this knowledge in comprehension: an utterance with focus presents an interpretative ambiguity problem. I will support this hypothesis by several comprehension experiments and a case study with an autistic child.



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