Information structural constraints on children's early language production

The acquisition of the focus particle auch ('also') in German-learning 12- to 36-month-olds

Anja Müller, Barbara Höhle, Michaela Schmitz, Jürgen Weissenborn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article presents new findings for the acquisition of the focus particle auch ('also') in German-learning children. In a longitudinal study with 11 children between 1;00 and 3;00 years of age complemented by two experiments with children aged 2;4 and 2;8, the authors investigated children's production of the accented and unaccented auch. The results confirm earlier findings of a temporal delay between the first occurrences of both auch-variants. Based on the empirical findings, an account for this asymmetry is proposed that relates it to a more general developmental tendency that is characterized by a growing linguistic explicitness in embedding a given utterance in its discourse context. It is suggested that the observed delay is caused by the type of relation between the particle and its related constituent: in contrast to the accented auch the unaccented auch is anaphorically related to the sentence topic. It is proposed that the initial omission reflects a general tendency in early child language to drop topic material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-399
Number of pages27
JournalFirst Language
Volume29
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Focus particles
  • Information structure
  • Prosody
  • Speech production
  • Topic drop

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