Null arguments in monolingual children

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Research on the development of pronouns in French and Italian has shown that object clitics are acquired with more effort than other syntactic categories: they are realized later in development than subject clitics and strong subject and object pronouns. Both the delay of object clitics and the subject-object asymmetry are robust. Unlike earlier studies, the present one compares the development in monolingual acquisition of French and Italian with regard to language-specific differences in the development of object clitics:We show that very young French children tend to repeat the object DP in obligatory contexts for clitics, while Italian children omit the object altogether. The difference between the groups becomes smaller in the course of the acquisition process.We explain this difference by proposing different licensing strategies for null objects: While French children use a pragmatic strategy like in adult Japanese, Italian children use a syntactic structure which is representative of Brazilian Portuguese, i.e. they license objects via AGR. In the vein of Zushi (2003), we investigate the role of agreement morphemes in the licensing of <i>pro</i>. With regard to the identification of null objects, we follow Shlonsky (1997) by associating different <i>pro</i>-types to these strategies: Italian children use FP-<i>pro</i>, French children NP-<i>pro</i>.<br />


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