A poverty-of-the-stimulus argument for the innateness of the identification conditions on VP ellipsis
The co-existence in European Portuguese of Null Complement Anaphora and of VP ellipsis licensed by main verbs poses a learnability problem and ultimately provides a poverty-of-the stimulus argument for the innateness of the identification conditions on VP ellipsis. If the identification constraint operating on ellipsis derives from innate principles and if the acquisition of VP ellipsis depends on the acquisition of V-to-I movement, we should expect VP ellipsis to be acquired as early as V-to-I. The analysis of a new spontaneous production corpus of the acquisition of EP shows that children produce VP ellipsis as early as 1;6 in simple contexts such as answers to yes-no questions. This is evidence for early V-to-I but it is also evidence for a very early ability to deal with the syntax – discourse interface, in case Merchant’s (2001) approach of the identification conditions on ellipsis is adopted.