Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

19
Article Acquisition in English, German,
Norwegian, and Swedish

TANJA KUPISCH, MERETE ANDERSSEN, UTE BOHNACKER, AND NEIL SNAPE

University of Calgary, University of Tromsø, Uppsala University, and Hokkaido University

ARTICLE OMISSION is a well-documented phenomenon in early child speech. Interestingly, children differ in terms of how extensively they omit articles depending on their age and what language(s) they are exposed to. Different accounts have been proposed to account for this cross-linguistic variation. One of the most widely discussed models is the nominal mapping parameter (NMP), originally proposed in Chierchia (1998), which relates variation in child language to the syntactic and semantic properties of noun phrases across languages (e.g., Chierchia, Guasti, and Gualmini 1999; Guasti and Gavarró 2003; Guasti et al. 2004). Other influential accounts of determiner omission have been formulated in prosody-oriented research (e.g., Gerken 1991, 1994; Lleó 1998, 2001; Lleó and Demuth 1999; Roark and Demuth 2000; Demuth, McCullough, and Adamo 2007). So far, no common agreement has been reached.

This chapter presents a study on article acquisition in English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish, where article use is subject to similar syntactic and semantic conditions. Hence the NMP predicts similar acquisition patterns. In terms of their metrical structure, noun phrases in these languages differ considerably. Accordingly, different acquisition patterns are expected.

The chapter is structured as follows: In the first section, we present an overview of articles and article use in the four languages under discussion. In the second section, we introduce the NMP and two prosodic accounts. The third section presents our results, discussing them in light of the aforementioned models. Our data suggest that the NMP should be discarded as empirically false, while supporting prosodic approaches to article acquisition. Nevertheless, as we conclude in the fourth section, even prosodic accounts do not provide an all-encompassing explanation for children's omission of articles.

Article acquisition in these four languages has been studied in previous work (for monolingual first language [L1] acquisition, see, e.g., Brown 1973; Radford 1990; Abu-Akel and Bailey 2000; Demuth, McCullough, and Adamo 2007, for English; Clahsen, Eisenbeiss, and Penke 1996; Penner and Weissenborn 1996; Lleó 1998, 2001; Eisenbeiss 2002; Kupisch 2006, 2007, for German; Anderssen 2005, for Norwegian;

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