Syntax and Discourse in the Acquisition of Adjunct Control
, A. N. Adler 2006
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This dissertation is a study of null subjects in adjunct clauses in English. The goal is twofold: to establish a comprehensive theory of control in adjuncts, and to utilize this theory to understand the adjunct control interpretations of children aged 3–6. The theoretical basis of this work is Landau (2000, 2001), who characterizes the complement control mechanism (1) as a syntactic Agree relation (Chomsky 1995, et seq.). I argue that the same mechanism governs control into low-attaching adjuncts (like before, after, while and without) as well (2). High-attaching adjuncts and gerund subjects, on the other hand, are subject to discourse-governed control rather than the syntactic Agree relation (3). I argue that the topic of the sentence is the controller in these cases.
(1) a. Johni wants/tries PROi to open the presents.
b. Johni tells Maryk PROk/*i to cut the cake.
c. Johni promises Maryk PROi/*k to help with the dishes.
(2) a. Suei talked to Johnk without PROi/*k mentioning the party.
b. Johni hugged Maryk before/after/while PROi/*k cutting the cake.
(3) a. PROi Being low on cash, Marki picked the cheaper gift.
b. PROi Organizing the whole event tired Maryi out.
This theory makes certain predictions for acquisition. Barring other factors, control in verb complements and low-attaching adjuncts should be mastered at a similar age, since they are governed by the same mechanism. On the other hand, discourse-governed control as in (3) is subject to separate constraints, and may not develop along the same time course. However, this does not exactly fit the acquisition data: many researchers have observed that control in before and after adjuncts may be delayed until age 5, beyond the age at which children master complement control. What accounts for this discrepancy? Do children give adult-like responses on any adjunct control structures?
I present data from Truth Value Judgment Task experiments conducted with over 50 children showing that 3-year-olds are above 94% adult-like on adjuncts headed by without. This demonstrates that even young children are capable of implementing control in adjuncts, as predicted by the control theory I argue for.
I suggest that the non-adult interpretations in temporal adjuncts are due to a delay in proper adjunct attachment height, rather than a delay in control. It is argued that adjunct attachment height is subject to a gradual learning process rather than an innate constraint. The reasons why certain adjuncts might or might not be wrongly attached are discussed. The result of misattachment is that the Agree relation cannot hold; the null subject in this structure falls into the domain of discourse-governed control rather than syntactic control. This is the root of the overly liberal control judgments from children.
The misattachment of an adjunct clause should affect pronoun interpretation as well, since it changes the c-command relation between the two clauses. I present results from a TVJ task with 30 children demonstrating that there are correlations between non-adult control and non-adult Principle C violations in temporal adjuncts, both attributed to the misattachment of the adjunct clause. Furthermore, we find similarities between the range of interpretations that children give to PRO in temporal adjuncts and in true discourse control structures as in (3), as expected under this account.
Thesis Supervisor: Suzanne Flynn, Professor of Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition
|1.1||Innate and learned factors in language acquisition||13|
|1.3||Issues in acquisition: control and adjunct structure||18|
|1.3.2||My account: the relevance of adjunct attachment height||23|
|1.4||Overview of experimental studies||26|
|2.1.1||The history of PRO||30|
|2.1.2||The development of control theory||33|
|2.2||Landau’s account of control||36|
|2.2.1||On the interpretation of PRO in OC and NOC||36|
|2.2.2||PRO in OC: partial vs. exhaustive control||39|
|2.2.3||Agree as the mechanism of control||42|
|2.2.5||The nature of NOC||49|
|2.3||Alternative theories of obligatory control||51|
|2.3.2||Williams (1992, 1994)||57|
|2.3.3||Conclusion: Agree as the mechanism of control||63|
|2.4||Focus on adjuncts: a comprehensive account||65|
|2.4.1||The basic patterns of adjunct control||65|
|2.4.2||Phases and Agree in adjuncts||69|
|220.127.116.11||The structure of nonfinite adjuncts||70|
|18.104.22.168||The nominal analysis of gerunds||71|
|22.214.171.124||Conclusions: structural control in adjuncts||81|
|126.96.36.199||NOC PRO as a logophor||86|
|188.8.131.52||Properties of sentence topics||88|
|3||Adjunct control in child language||104|
|3.1||Background on the acquisition of control||108|
|3.2||The nominalization hypothesis||114|
|3.3||The adjunct misattachment hypothesis||119|
|3.4||My account: the interaction between adjunct attachment and control||128|
|3.4.2||More on misanalysis: subordination vs. coordination||131|
|3.4.3||A remaining issue: finite vs. nonfinite clauses||138|
|3.4.4||The question of learnability||139|
|3.4.5||Predictions of the account||145|
|184.108.40.206||The effect of misanalysis on control||145|
|220.127.116.11||Predictions beyond the domain of control||148|
|3.5||The acquisition of discourse control||152|
|3.5.1||Review: discourse control in adult grammar||152|
|3.5.2||Relevance to the adjunct misanalysis account||153|
|3.5.3||Hypothesis on discourse delay||156|
|3.5.4||Further discussion: non-licensed anaphora in child and adult grammar||160|
|4.3||Experiment 1: without, while, after||169|
|4.3.1||Hypotheses and predictions||169|
|4.3.3||Materials and procedures||170|
|4.4||Experiment 2: binding and control||176|
|4.4.1||Hypotheses and predictions||176|
|4.4.3||Materials and procedures||178|
|4.4.4||Results and discussion||182|
|18.104.22.168||Principle C and correlations with control||186|
|22.214.171.124||Ambiguous vs. unambiguous pronouns||190|
|4.5||Experiment 3: discourse control||195|
|4.5.1||Hypotheses and predictions||195|
|4.5.4||Results and discussion||198|
|4.6||Summary and conclusions||202|
|Appendix 1: Experiment 1 materials||220|
|Appendix 2: Experiment 2 materials||222|
|A2.2||Principle C structures||223|
|A2.3||Ambiguous pronouns (fronted adjuncts)||227|
|Appendix 3: Experiment 3 materials||229|