Early functions of definite determiners and DPs in German first language acquisition

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The paper discusses the functional load of definite DPs in early child German regarding sentence-internal (argument structure) and sentence-external relations (text coherence). The data consist of adult-child dialogues of two children in the period 1;11–2;11. It is argued that DPs exhibit functional load on both levels from the onset of production. Contradicting recent assumptions, (i) case-related distinctions are acquired prior to gender distinction, and (ii) children establish a functional distinction between pronominal DPs (continued or directly accessible reference) and noun-including DPs (disrupted or especially emphasized reference). The results allow the hypotheses that the noun-including DP is a functionally motivated extension of the pronominal DP and that properties relating the DP to other elements of sentence/text are the first to be acquired.


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