Mismatches between phonology and syntax in French DP acquisition

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Children are known to produce non-adult-like structures, leaving out functional elements as determiners for instance. A number of previous studies account for determiner omission by assuming that the D-layer is not available at the onset of acquisition. However, these models are forced to postulate structures that conflict with the referential properties of bare nouns in child language. The goal of this paper is to account for the non-adult-like omissions in children’s speech while at the same time adhering continuity between child and adult grammar. We argue that the D-layer is available in very early stages. However, the correspondence between phonological items and their syntactic representations is not yet target-like. These mismatches explain the observed differences between child and adult speech. It follows from our approach that DP-structure is acquired item-by-item rather than rule-based. This view is supported by the results of a case study in French L1-acquisition.


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