INFL in Child and Adult Language: Agreement, Case and Licensing

C. T. Sch�tze, 1997

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I propose an analysis of the inflectional system of clauses that captures both crosslinguistic variation and differences between adult speakers and young children learning a given language.  The phenomena of interest fall into two classes: 1) case marking and subject-predicate agreement; and 2) tense marking and the licensing of overt and null subjects.  The major goals are

            * to motivate the complete separation of case and licensing;

            * to argue that agreement is exclusively responsible for case, and tense

exclusively for (subject) licensing;

            * to argue that children"s "root infinitive" utterances violate no principles of

syntax in either domain " rather, children differ from adults in their choices among convergent structures.

I argue that structure case marking is a reflex of the same syntactic feature-checking relation as agreement; I label this conglomeration Accord.  The presence in a clause of features involved in Accord is not an absolute convergence requirement.  Rather, it is due to a preference among convergent derivations, expressed as the Accord Maximization Principle (AMP), which compares structures that differ only on uninterpretable features (in the sense of Chomsky 1995).  Among those that meet all convergence requirements, only those with the most Accord relations are admissible.  Children do not always successfully enforce this preference, sometimes reverting to a representation where structural case features have not been introduced.  When this happens, arguments appear in the default case of the language, supplied in the Spell-Out component.  Evidence from child corpus studies (both normal and Specifically Language Impaired) shows that children know both that case and agreement must be checked together and that default case must be supplied when case is absent.

With regard to subject licensing, I show that the absence of Tense features is often compatible with both PRO and overt subjects.  Children"s overt subjects of nonfinite clauses are thus consistent with adult grammars.  The relationship between the distribution of syntactic Tense features and the meanings of clauses is governed by interface conditions on which adults and children apparently differ.

Thesis supervisor:         Alec Marantz, Kenneth N. Wexler

Titles:                           Professor of Linguistics, Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

Table of Contents

1          Introduction                                                                                                      12

            1.1       Issues and goals                                                                                    12

            1.2       Approach to acquisition                                                                        13

            1.3       Organization of the thesis                                                                      17

2          Theoretical Framework                                                                         20

            2.1       Licensing                                                                                              20

                        2.1.1    The empirical domain                                                                22

                        2.1.2    Subjects of nonfinite clauses                                                      23

                        2.1.3    The distribution of PRO                                                            31

            2.2       Case                                                                                                    36

            2.3       Agreement and varieties of case                                                            40

            2.4       Why separate case and licensing?                                                          45

            2.5       Syntax and morphology                                                                        49

            2.6       The necessity of default case: An English case study                               52

Appendix 2.A: Adjunct subject licensing and with                                                         62

Appendix 2.B: Subject of nonfinite clauses in other languages                             65

3          Background on Acquisition                                                                               68

            3.1       Interpreting the OI/EOI stage                                                                68

                        3.1.1    Theories of optional infinitives                                        68

                        3.1.2    Theories of SLI                                                                        72

                        3.1.3    Theories of null subjects and licensing in acquisition        73

                        3.1.4    Theories of case acquisition                                                       76

            3.2       Syntax-morphology interaction in acquisition                              77

                        3.2.1    Importance of the inventory                                                       77

                        3.2.2    Acquiring the default case                                                         79

                           Motivation                                                                    79

                           Crosslinguistic differences                                             81

                           Left dislocations                                                            84

                           Predicate nominals                                                        86

            3.3       Interpreting the data                                                                              91

            3.4       Details of data analysis                                                              94

4          Agreement and Case                                                                                        100

            4.1       Agreement and structural case: two sides of one coin                 100

                        4.1.1    Icelandic                                                                                   101

                           NOM and agreement                                                    102

                           NOM and infinitives                                                      103

                           Infinitival subjects                                                          110

                           Implementing the Accord Maximization Principle           113

                           NOM ECM and a constraint on NOM objects 115

                           Interactions with binding                                                118

                           Passive participle Accord versus Concord                     121

                        4.1.2    Hindi                                                                                        124

                        4.1.3    Portuguese                                                                               125

                        4.1.4    Modern Greek                                                                         128

                        4.1.5    Belfast English                                                              131

                        4.1.6    Standard English                                                                       136

                        4.1.7    Object Accord                                                                         140

                           Romance                                                                      140

                           Inuit                                                                              141

                           Choctaw                                                                      141

            4.2       Structural versus inherent case as presence versus absence of

Accord                                                                                                 145

            4.3       Choices between structural cases                                                          155

            4.4       Implementing case in the morphology                                        161

Appendix 4.A: Korean "Case Stacking" isn"t                                                                164

            4.A.1   Introduction                                                                                          164

            4.A.2   Against case stacking                                                                            165

            4.A.3   In favor of a focus treatment                                                                  167

            4.A.4   Distribution of ka and lul stacking                                                         170

                        4.A.4.1            Stacked lul also isn"t case                                                         170

                        4.A.4.2            Choice of ka versus lul stacking                                                172

                        4.A.4.3            Analysis                                                                                    173

            4.A.5   Extension to related constructions                                                          175

                        4.A.5.1            The "ECM" construction                                                           175

                        4.A.5.2            "Multiple Case" constructions                                       177

            4.A.6   DP subjects versus PP subjects                                                 179

                        4.A.6.1            DAT can be a case morpheme                                      180

                        4.A.6.2            True PP subjects get (obligatory) NOM case                            180

            4.A.7   Conclusions                                                                                          181

Appendix 4.B: Some split ergative systems                                                                    184

            4.B.1    Basic case/agreement splits                                                                   184

            4.B.2    Georgian                                                                                              185

5          The acquisition of INFL: case, agreement and tense                                           188

            5.1       Introduction                                                                                          188

            5.2       INFL forms and features: An English case study                                    190

                        5.2.1    Null be                                                                                     190

                        5.2.2    Nodes and features                                                                   200

                        5.2.3    Paradigms: V-raising and morphological merger             204

                        5.2.4    Vocabulary entries                                                                    209

                        5.2.5    Implications for child English                                                     213

                        5.2.6    Summary                                                                                  216

            5.3       Patterns of child case errors                                                                  216

                        5.3.1    English                                                                          216

                           Normal children"s production                                        216

                                                Previous findings                                   216

                                                New corpus data                                  223

                                                Summary of data and implications         230

                                                Analysis                                                231

                           SLI children"s production                                              237

                                                Previous findings                                   237

                                                New data                                             238

                           Experiment in progress                                      242

                        5.3.2    German                                                                                    244

                           Previous findings                                                           244

                           New data                                                                     245

                           Analysis                                                                        246

                        5.3.3    Dutch                                                                                       246

                        5.3.4    Russian                                                                         249

                        5.3.5    French                                                                                      250

            5.4       Advantages over other theories of case acquisition and OIs                   254

            5.5       Other predictions of the two-factor OI theory                            261

                        5.5.1    Time course                                                                              261

                        5.5.2    Null subjects                                                                             263

6          Open questions and future directions                                                                 272

            6.1       Open questions about adult grammars                                       272

            6.2       Open questions about acquisition                                                          273

                        6.2.1    Descriptive questions                                                                273

                        6.2.2    Issues for learning                                                                     275

                        6.2.3    Semantic implications of the analysis of child clause types           277

            6.3       Comparisons among derivations in child and adult grammars      280