Chapter 2. Zero-present under past in child French

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This chapter discusses novel data from two experimental studies testing the acquisition of futurity and providing evidence in favor of Demirdache and Lungu’s (2009, 2011) zero-tense hypothesis, according to which child grammars display both zero-present and zero-past tenses, alongside indexical present/past tenses. Extending Kratzer (1998), Demirdache and Lungu argue that simultaneous construals of past/present in adult languages arise via a zero-tense analysis of the embedded tense. The claim is that while some adult languages (English, French) allow zero-tense construals of past and others (Japanese) allow zero-tense construals of present, child French in particular and, by hypothesis, child language in general, allows zero-tense construals of both past and present. We argue that once we admit the existence of a zero-present tense in child French, we expect children to allow non-adult, non-indexical construals of other tenses that have a present component. On the basis of two experiments testing the interpretation of futurity in L1 French, we show that this prediction is borne out.


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