Linguistics in the Netherlands 2012
  • ISSN 0929-7332
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9919


Dutch children interpret reflexives correctly from age 4 on, but frequently misinterpret object pronouns as coreferring with the local subject until age 6. We investigated whether this so-called Delay of Principle B Effect (DPBE) differs by verb type. We tested 47 children between 4 and 6 years old with regular transitive verbs (e.g., to hit) and grooming verbs (e.g., to wash), verbs that often refer to self-directed actions. In general, children displaying the DPBE performed equally well on both verb types. In contrast, children who performed poorly on pronouns and reflexives made significantly more errors interpreting pronouns with grooming verbs than with transitive verbs. This suggests that young children are aware of the tendency for certain events to be self-directed. However, our results show they only apply this information when interpreting pronouns but not reflectives, indicating that they also use their grammatical knowledge.


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