A typology of agreement processes and its implications for language development

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In this paper we investigated and compared the developmental curve of four different agreement configurations in Italian (Determiner – Noun, Subject – Verb, Subject – Predicative Adjective, Clitic – Past Participle). These configurations can be considered to be more or less local, in accordance to the notions of phase (Chomsky 2001) and structural adjacency at the interfaces (Rizzi 2006b). We put forth the hypothesis that the timing of full mastery of the different configurations in acquisition respects the following ranking: D–N > S–V > S–Adj > ClPart, where less local configurations are expected to be fully mastered later than more local configurations. We test this prediction experimentally through a forced choice task with Italian children of age three, four and five.


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