Children’s Spanish subject pronoun expression
This study explores children’s acquisition of structured morphosyntactic variation by examining Spanish subject pronoun expression. Analyses of 5,923 verbs produced by 154 Mexican children, ages 6 to 16, show that the variables that most strongly constrain the oldest children’s pronoun usage – Person, Reference, Priming – are acquired first during childhood. These variables exert similar effects across age, with the exception of second-person singular, which favors <i>tú </i>expression among younger children and <i>tú </i>omission among older children. The developmental trajectory from more to less <i>tú </i>expression is explained as the result of (a) increasing production of nonspecific reference, which in turn decreases rates of <i>tú</i>, and (b) abundant reported speech in the younger children’s data, which rendered <i>tú </i>expression pragmatically appropriate.