Connectivity Effects in Pseudoclefts in Child Language

Hirohisa Kiguchi, Rosalind Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A prominent feature of specificational pseudoclefts is connectivity effects. Despite the absence of c-command in the surface syntax, specificational pseudoclefts yield interpretations that are governed by c-command in other constructions. The present study focused on two kinds of specificational pseudoclefts (SPCs). In one, a wh-clause with a pronoun precedes the copula and then a phrase containing an R-expression expression (e.g. What he said was the blue boy's wheelchair was the fastest). Principle C effects (noncoreference) are enforced despite the absence of surface c-command. In the second type of SPC, a disjunctive phrase precedes the copula and a wh-clause that contains a negative quantifier (e.g. A shell or a jewel is what nobody brought back). Here, despite lack of surface c-command between negation and the disjunction, disjunction yields a conjunctive interpretation. Both kinds of SPCs pose a poverty-of-the-stimulus problem; how do children come to assign adult-like interpretations to SPCs, when the surface syntax does not provide relevant clues to semantic interpretation? A truth value judgment task revealed that 17 4-5 year-old English-speaking child participants (mean age 4;8) consistently interpreted both kinds of SPCs in the same way as adults, enforcing both Principle C and the conjunctive interpretation of disjunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-65
Number of pages32
JournalStudia Linguistica
Volume70
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

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