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Children`s and Adults` Resolution of Ambiguous Ellipses Doreen Bryant Humboldt University Berlin.

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Präsentation zum Thema: "Children`s and Adults` Resolution of Ambiguous Ellipses Doreen Bryant Humboldt University Berlin."—  Präsentation transkript:

1 Children`s and Adults` Resolution of Ambiguous Ellipses Doreen Bryant Humboldt University Berlin

2 Structures of Investigation: Ambiguous Ellipses in conjoined sentences and phrases Hasi schenkt Ele eine Nuß und Dino einen Keks. 1. Subject Reading: Der Hasi schenkt dem Ele eine Nuß und der Dino einen Keks. 2. Object Reading: Der Hasi schenkt dem Ele eine Nuß und dem Dino einen Keks. BARE ARGUMENT ELLIPSIS (BAE) Hasi schenkt Ele eine Nuß und Dino auch. Potential GAPPING

3 The Experiment Participants: 60 adults, 230 children Design: - Acting Out Paradigm - 9 conditions, 3 test items per condition 58 children age 4,0 - 5,6 4,5 (Kindergarten) 60 children age 5,7 - 7,1 6,2 (Preschool / Grade 1) 60 children age 7,2 - 8,8 7,6 (Grade 2) 52 children age 8,9 - 10,9 9,5 (Grade 4)

4 9 conditions: Ditransitive structures Dino schenkt Ele eine Nuß und Hasi einen Keks und Hasi auch. Transitive structures with situation-external modifiers Dino kitzelt Ele im Haus und Hasi im Wald und Hasi auch. Transitive structures with situation-internal modifiers: locative PPs Dino kitzelt Ele am Fuß und Hasi am Hals und Hasi auch. Transitive structures with situation-internal modifiers: instrumental PPs Dino kitzelt Ele mit einem Blattund Hasi mit einer Feder und Hasi auch. Transitive structures without modifiers Dino kitzelt Ele und Hasi auch. 5 x BAE 4 x Gapping

5 Ele bringt Hasi einen Brief und Dino ein Päckchen.

6 Subject and Object Interpretations Bare Argument Ellipses Potential Gapping

7 Subject Interpretations of Transitive Gapping Structures Ele kitzelt Dino im Haus und Hasi im Wald. Ele kitzelt Dino am Fuß und Hasi am Hals. Ele kitzelt Dino mit einem Blatt und Hasi mit einer Feder.

8 ? Question ? Answer Why do children favour the adult object reading in a structure such as Ele kitzelt Dino im Haus und Hasi im Wald. much earlier than in structures such as Dino kitzelt Hasi am Fuß und Ele am Hals. Hasi kitzelt Ele mit einem Blatt und Dino mit einer Feder. The answer is related to children`s interpretation of the conjunction und.

9 How the interpretation of the conjunction und influences the interpretation of the post und DP How would you act out the following sentence ? Hasi kitzelt Ele mit einem Blatt und Dino mit einer Feder. Over 90% of the adults acted out the sentence in the following way: The rabbit takes the leaf and tickles the elephant and then he takes the feather and tickles the dinosaur. Children tend not to act out the two conjuncts sequentially as adults do but rather in a parallel way, as the following two videos exemplify.

10 Hasi kitzelt Ele mit einem Blatt und Dino mit einer Feder.

11 Ele kratzt Dino mit einem Stock und Hasi mit einer Bürste.

12 The sequential meaning of und, considered a conversational implicature, is not accessible for many children or at least it is not their preferred interpretation. Video 1 – Subject Reading Two subjects tickled one object at the same time. Video 2 – Object Reading One subject scratched two objects at the same time. Children`s interpretation of the conjunction und: t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) The majority of the children who follow the hypothesis t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) interpreted the ambiguous DP as subject. The simultanous interpretation of the two events seems better compatible with the subject reading than with the object reading.

13 Answer: A certain amount of subject readings is due to the simultaneity associated with the conjunction und. It is this amount of subject readings we do not find for structures with situation-external modifiers such as Ele kitzelt Dino im Haus und Hasi im Wald. Here the two events have to happen sequentially and therefore the hypothesis t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) has to be abandoned, allowing the object reading to prevail. the question again: Why do children arrive at the adult object reading in a structure such as Ele kitzelt Dino im Haus und Hasi im Wald. much earlier than in structures such as Dino kitzelt Hasi am Fuß und Ele am Hals. Hasi kitzelt Ele mit einem Blatt und Dino mit einer Feder.

14 Acting Out Responses of children aged 5,7 - 7,1 (Der) Dino kitzelt (den) Hasi am Fuß und (der/den) Ele am Hals. (Der) Dino kitzelt (den Hasi) im Haus und (der/den) Ele im Wald. all subject and object responses Children`s Hypotheses all subject and object responses 1. post und DP = S(ubject) 2. post und DP = S -if possible (sit.-internal mod.) then t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) -if not possible (sit.-external mod.) then t(e 1 ) t(e 2 ) 3. t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) post und DP = S 45 % Object 55 % Subject 30 % Subject 70 % Object 25 % of the subject readings in structures with situation-internal modifiers are based on the hypothesis t(e 1 ) = t (e 2 ) 50 % t(e 1 ) = t (e 2 ) 4. post und DP = Object t(e 1 ) = t(e 2 ) 5. post und DP = Object t(e 1 ) t(e 2 )

15 Summary Children differ from adults in their interpretation of the ambiguous DP in potential Gapping structures as well as in BAE structures: whereas children tend to analyse the post und DP as subject, adults show a strong bias for an object interpretation. Structure dependent appearance of the adult object reading: 1.Gapping Structures with situation-external modifiers 2.Gapping Structures with locative PPs as situation-internal modifiers 3.Gapping Structure with instrumental PPs as situation-internal modifiers The non adult interpretation of the conjunction und (simultaneously instead of sequentially) causes a certain amount of subject readings in structures where simultaneity is possible

16 Open question: Why do children stick to the subject reading in structures containing instrumental PPs for such a long time ? 4 Subject and Object Interpretations of Structures with instrumental PPs such as: Hasi kitzelt Ele mit einem Blatt und Dino mit einer Feder.

17 Future Prospects The presented data should be discussed in the following contexts: Large conjunct hypothesis vs. small conjunct hypothesis The role of processing principles such as Minimal Attachment and Late Closure in the course of language acquisition Late acquisition of pragmatic implicatures Children`s high attachment of object relative clauses * The dog 1 pushed the sheep that 1 jumped over the pig.

18 End I would like to thank Heiner Drehnhaus, Martin Gallop, Sabine Krämer, Manfred Krifka, Claudia Maienborn, Marije Michel, Sophie Repp, Petra Schulz and Jürgen Weissenborn for comments, criticism and support of various kinds. Most of all I wish to thank Olga Schierhorn for assisting me in the testing of over 200 children and for the hundreds of little pictures which she drew by hand.


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