Edited by Ruth A. Berman and Ludo Verhoeven
[Written Language & Literacy 5:1] 2002
► pp. 69–93
Subject NP patterning in the development of text production
Speech and writing
This paper examines how choice of subject NP types and structures changes in the development of text construction, and the extent of variation in the developmental patterns which are produced in speech and in writing. The population for this study consisted of 80 participants — 40 grade-school children and 40 university-level adults — with 20 participants in each of four languages: Dutch, Hebrew, English, and Spanish. The database for each language-specific analysis consisted of 40 grade-school texts and 40 adult texts. In each group, half were spoken texts and half written, half were narratives and half expository texts: altogether 320 texts. All subject NP slots in each text were counted and classified by category of realization (zero, pronoun, or lexical), by pronoun type (personal vs. impersonal), and by lexical complexity (terminal NPs governing a single lexical noun vs. non-terminal NPs governing more than one lexical noun). In general, the written expositions of adults are the preferred site for lexical subjects and for non-terminal subjects. Among both children and adults, narratives contain more personal subject pronouns, and expository texts contain more impersonal pronouns. Several cross-linguistic differences emerged (mainly between Spanish and the other three languages), reflecting differences in the syntactic, inflectional, and pronominal patternings of the target languages.
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