L1 variation in object pronominalisation, and the import of pragmatics

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Much work on referential expressions in monolingual and bilingual acquisition rests on the assumption that early grammars licence null objects even when they are not possible in the corresponding target grammar, in virtue of discourse-pragmatic licencing. This proposal has been made mainly with reference to third person object pronominalisation. Less attention has been given to other pronouns. Here, I show how the pragmatic account of third person object pronouns (along the lines of Serratrice et al. [2004, Crosslinguistic influence in the syntax-pragmatics interface: Subjects and objects in English-Italian bilingual and monolingual acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7(3). 182-205], in the spirit of Hulk and Müller [2000, Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 3(3). 227-244], Müller and Hulk [2001, Crosslinguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition: Italian and French as recipient languages. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 4(1). 1-21]) does not extend to clitics instantiating other person specifications or other grammatical functions. I present an alternative analysis, in terms of the Unique Checking Constraint (Wexler [1998, Very early parameter setting and the unique checking constraint: A new explanation for the optional infinitive stage. Lingua 106. 23-79]) that offers a generalisation over other clitics, in particular indirect object clitics and first person object clitics, which are generally preserved in child grammar - as witnessed by two experiments run on Catalan L1 reported here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-322
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • acquisition
  • Catalan
  • clitic
  • first person clitic
  • indirect object clitic
  • third person clitic


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