Definite and bare noun contrasts in child Catalan

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Thirty-three children aged 3–5 were tested for comprehension of definite and bare noun (BN) contrasts in Catalan, a language with bare nouns in direct object but not in subject position. Catalan objects have the same semantics as English subjects: BNs map to generic and definites into specific referents. Global semantic parameters cannot explain the contrast in this type of language. The test of Catalan sentences equivalent to <i>She needs shoes/She needs the shoes </i>showed no discrimination at 3 and sensitivity by 4 .We argue under an economy approach that BNs have a default generic reading that can be shifted into an ‘instance-of-a-kind’ interpretation. Acquisition is driven by a principle of semantic contrast that restricts the initial overextension of BNs to specific<br />readings.


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