Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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Diachronic studies of discourse markers suggest they follow a unidirectional developmental path, from propositional to textual and expressive uses. The present study tests whether children acquire the propositional (literal) before the expressive (pragmatic) functions of two adversative discourse markers in French and English, which have similar core meanings and pragmatic functions. Our results partially confirm the propositional-first hypothesis but semantics and pragmatics appear to work together, rather than first one then the other, at least in this case, and this runs counter to both diachronic theories and usage-based accounts of L1 acquisition. 88 occurrences of and 174 of were extracted from the CHILDES database, and coded for two functions (adversative and elaborative) and three domains (propositional, textual, expressive). The results suggest that the pragmatic functions of are used by children as young as two years old, but the same is not true of , which is almost exclusively propositional in the early years. By contrast, before age 5, French children start to use for textual and elaborative functions to a greater extent than . The role of syntactic position and parental input are discussed.


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