Chapter published in:Semantics in Language Acquisition
Edited by Kristen Syrett and Sudha Arunachalam
[Trends in Language Acquisition Research 24] 2018
► pp. 352–377
The acquisition path of near-reflexivity
Classical statue sentences (‘Ringo hit himself’ meaning ‘Ringo hit his statue’) are a long-standing puzzle for binding theories. We enrich the Partition theory (Schwarzschild, 1996) to allow semantic partitions (based on contextual contrasts) to explain acquisition experiments. The semantic partitions, in turn, correspond to a syntactic analysis of bimorphemic versus monomorphic reflexives. Only morphologically complex anaphors allow near-reflexive reference to a statue. Two experiments on the acquisition of near-reflexivity in Italian and English show that this innate interface is present very early. Results from yes/no questions-after-stories given to children 4;0–6;0 years (Italian: N = 29; English: N = 36) and adult controls (Italian: N = 30; English: N = 72) supported our prediction: English children allowed near-reflexivity with herself, Italian children blocked near-reflexivity with se.
Keywords: reflexivity, near-reflexivity, proxy, partitions, binding, clitics, anaphora, acquisition, Italian
Published online: 02 August 2018
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