The strict-sloppy reading of reflexives and pronouns in child Mandarin
This paper investigates Mandarin-speaking children’s sensitivity to the strict-sloppy reading ambiguity of reflexives and pronouns in two coordinate elliptical constructions: the null object construction (NOC) and the Shi-constructions (ShiC). Two questions are addressed: (1) whether the strict reading of reflexives and pronouns are equally accessible to children; and (2) whether the strict reading is more accessible in the NOCs than in the ShiCs, given that the strict reading is pragmatically motivated (Guo et al., 1996; Foley et al., 2003) and that the NOCs are subject to the pragmatic factors (Xu, 2003). We examined 4-year-old Mandarin-speaking children and adults and found that children were sensitive to the interpretative idiosyncrasies of the two pro-forms whereas adults were sensitive to the interpretative discrepancies between the two constructions. Children’s non-adult performance indicates that their knowledge of language at the lexicon-syntax interface develops late in child grammar.
Keywords: strict/sloppy reading, Shi-construction, null object construction, reflexive/pronoun interpretation, child Mandarin
Published online: 05 September 2014
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