From early to late mastery of reference

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Developmental studies report either early or late mastery of reference during first language acquisition. This overview focuses on two dimensions that may account for this gap: the multifunctional nature of referring expressions that simultaneously contribute to linguistic organization at sentence and discourse levels, and the language-specific properties that present children with different problems to solve. Illustrations from available research indicate that children are highly sensitive to many discourse-pragmatic features of reference from early on. However, they gradually learn to mark the full range of discourse-internal relations that are necessary to communicate in extended discourse, and variable linguistic factors influence this process throughout development. The discussion highlights multiple determinants of how children come to master multifunctionality during the acquisition of reference across languages.


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