A discourse-pragmatic explanation for the subject-object asymmetry in early null arguments

The present paper assesses discourse-pragmatic factors as a potential explanation for the subject-object assymetry in early child language. It identifies a set of factors which characterize typical situations of informativeness (Greenfield & Smith, 1976), and uses these factors to identify informative arguments in data from four children aged 2;0 through 3;6 learning Inuktitut as a first language. In addition, it assesses the extent of the links between features of informativeness on one hand and lexical vs. null and subject vs. object arguments on the other. Results suggest that a pragmatics account of the subject-object asymmetry can be upheld to a greater extent than previous research indicates, and that several of the factors characterizing informativeness are good indicators of those arguments which tend to be omitted in early child language.
Publication type
Proceedings paper
Publication date
1998

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