The relationship between determiner omission and root infinitives in child English

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Hoekstra et al. (1997, 1999) make a proposal for the analysis of children’s root infinitives that predicts an utterance-by-utterance contingency between the presence of finite inflection and the form of the subject DP. Specifically, their proposal predicts that obligatory determiners should be omitted from the subject if and only if the clause is missing obligatory finite inflection. They provide preliminary data suggesting that the predicted correlation obtains. In this paper I use more extensive data to show that the categorical pattern that Hoekstra et al. found does not hold up in larger samples: in particular, there is no ban in child English on the use of subject determiners in root infinitive utterances, nor on determiner omission in finite utterances. Implications for Hoekstra et al.’s theory are discussed. Keywords: determiner; English; finiteness; omission; root infinitive


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