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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19023

Title: L'Asymétrie entre L'Acquisition des Clitiques Sujets/Objets chez les Enfants francophones et L'Optionalité dans la Grammaire Enfantine
Authors: Belzil, Isabelle
Advisor: Roberge, Yves
Pirvulescu, Mihaela
Department: French Language and Literature
Keywords: first language
acquisition
clitics
French
asymmetry
Issue Date: 18-Feb-2010
Abstract: In light of recent theoretical and methodological developments in the areas of French morphosyntax and child acquisition, the present dissertation reconsiders the asymmetry reported in previous studies of the acquisition of subject and object clitics in French-speaking children. Our reanalysis allows us to address two important questions in the domain of acquisition, namely optionality in the child’s grammar and the role of input in development. By means of an exhaustive analysis of child and adult production, our research illustrates that adults produce several subject/object asymmetries, and we propose that the asymmetry reported for children is attributable to properties of the target language and not to the acquisition process. Beyond these conclusions, our research reveals a significant asymmetry during the course of acquisition, namely that the subject clitic reaches the target grammar faster than the object clitic. This asymmetry, which we qualify as rhythmic, is caused by a prolonged optionality of the object clitic. However, our study shows that this optionality is not generalized. Until roughly 3 years of age, object and subject clitics show a parallel development in spontaneous speech: they are optional. After this period (around 3 years), their production reaches the levels observed in adults. In contrast, some studies in elicited production have shown that object clitics are still optional beyond 3 years. These contradictory results lead us to propose that there are two types of optionality: spontaneous and induced. We explore possible sources of these phenomena and propose that the status of pronouns as clitic elements plays a role in spontaneous optionality. As for the induced optionality, we propose that it is attributable to variation in the input and the child’s tendency to regularize it. Overall, our results allow us to redefine the asymmetry, to propose that optionality is a multifactorial phenomenon, and to illustrate the role of input in the optionality exhibited by French children for this domain.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19023
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of French - Doctoral theses

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