What does finiteness mean to children? A cross-linguistic perspective onroot infinitives
What does finiteness mean to children? A cross-linguistic perspective onroot infinitives. Linguistics, 42
(2), 419-468. doi:10.1515/ling.2004.014.
The discussion on root infinitives has mainly centered around their supposed modal usage. This article aims at modelling the form-function relation of the root infinitive phenomenon by taking into account the full range of interpretational facets encountered cross-linguistically and interindividually.
Following the idea of a subsequent ‘‘cell partitioning’’ in the emergence of form-function correlations, I claim that it is the major fission between [+-finite] which is central to express temporal reference different from the default here&now in tense-oriented languages. In aspectual-oriented languages, a similar opposition is mastered with the marking of early aspectual forms. It is observed that in tense-oriented languages like Dutch and German, the progression of functions associated with the infinitival form proceeds from nonmodal to modal, whereas the reverse progression holds for the
Russian infinitive. Based on this crucial observation, a model of acquisition
is proposed which allows for a flexible and systematic relationship between morphological forms and their respective interpretational biases dependent on their developmental context. As for early child language, I argue that children entertain only two temporal parameters: one parameter is fixed to the here&now point in time, and a second parameter relates to the time talked about, the topic time; this latter time overlaps the situation time as long as no empirical evidence exists to support the emergence of a proper distinction between tense and aspect.