The Processing and Acquisition of Reference (MIT Press)

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Add to basket. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information How people refer to objects in the world, how people comprehend reference, and how children acquire an understanding of and an ability to use reference. Edward A.

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No ratings or reviews yet. Be the first to write a review. You may also like. Hardback Dictionaries and Reference Books. This item doesn't belong on this page. In 2 , on the other hand, Susan is impossible as an antecedent for the pronoun, whereas Mary or anyone else of female gender mentioned in the previous discourse is a possible antecedent. It turns out that acquisition of pronouns, particularly with respect to choice of antecedents, presents rather distinctive challenges for children acquiring their first language L1.

In the acquisition of English and many other languages, a well-known and robust phenomenon known as the DPBE has been reported Jakubowicz, ; Crain and McKee, ; Chien and Wexler, ; Koster, ; Avrutin and Thornton, ; Thornton and Wexler, ; among many others. In a nutshell, children are often at chance when interpreting sentences with pronouns, at stages when they have no problem in interpreting reflexives. In particular, they sometimes mistakenly assume that pronouns, like reflexives, can take local antecedents.

Delays in acquiring accuracy on pronouns have been observed cross-linguistically, for Dutch Philip and Coopmans, , Hebrew Friedmann et al. There is a further relevant finding in the literature, relating to whether the antecedent is referential referring to a particular individual, e. More recently, an additional asymmetry has been reported. Hartman et al. However, children are less accurate with pronouns referring to referential antecedents than with pronouns where the antecedent is quantified. Accuracy with quantified antecedents and with reduced pronouns suggests that Principle B is indeed operative and that some other explanation is required to account for the problematic cases.

We turn now to an explanation of why pronoun reference should be particularly difficult to acquire, proposed by Grodzinsky and Reinhart and Reinhart , There are two ways in which a pronoun and its antecedent can be associated. In addition to variable binding of pronouns as regulated by Principle B , accidental coreference is also possible Sag, ; Evans, ; Grodzinsky and Reinhart, ; Heim, ; Williams, In very specific contexts, a pronoun can in fact take a local antecedent.

Such cases are heavily dependent on repetition and special intonation. Even I blamed me. These examples ostensibly violate Principle B, since the pronoun and its antecedent are in the same clause. The assumption, then, is that, in interpreting pronouns, two derivations have to be constructed and compared.

Pronoun interpretation is computationally more complex than anaphor computation, for which only one interpretive mechanism exists, namely variable binding. On this account, when trying to interpret pronouns, children sometimes give up and pick an interpretation at random. According to Avrutin and Wexler , accidental coreference is unavailable with clitic pronouns, because clitics are referentially deficient, in the sense that they are always bound variables see also Baauw and Cuetos, This is suggested by the fact that clitics cannot be used in isolation, cannot receive focal stress, and cannot be used deictically with a pointing gesture.

Children learning languages with clitics do not consider an accidental coreference derivation because of the requirement that the clitic is always coindexed with its antecedent, and so they are more accurate than children learning languages with strong pronouns, which are free to take on accidental coreference. In other words, computational complexity rather than lack of linguistic knowledge is the source of their difficulties.

The account is potentially extendable to adult L2 learners. The issue of potential computational complexity, as defined by Reinhart and colleagues with respect to pronouns, has not been addressed in L2 acquisition. While there are a number of studies on the L2 acquisition of reflexives and their antecedents, less is known about pronouns. If the difference in accuracy in determining antecedents for pronouns and reflexives is computationally based, it is logical to assume that the same dissociation between pronouns and anaphors may arise in L2 acquisition as well. However, additional factors come into play in adult L2 acquisition.

First, adult learners, having a fully developed computational system for their L1, may not display a big contrast between pronoun and anaphor interpretation accuracy in the L2, because they have learned to compute these meanings as children in their L1. Second, all languages have personal pronouns, in some cases taking the form of clitics, so L1 transfer into the L2 is possible, including transfer of requirements on possible antecedents. These two factors could aid learners in acquiring pronoun reference, and may obscure any computational effects that arise in the course of acquisition.

Indeed, in the past, the understanding was that there are no significant problems with pronoun interpretation in L2 acquisition as far as Principle B is concerned White, Nevertheless, a new look at this phenomenon is warranted. First, the predictions made by the computational complexity account extend naturally to lower proficiency L2 learners, who may exhibit greater signs of struggling with pronoun interpretation than more experienced learners. Furthermore, new research using psycholinguistic techniques such as eye tracking Kim et al. We turn now to a summary of previous research on pronoun interpretation in L2 as it relates to Binding Principles A and B.

There has been extensive research on Principle A, looking at properties of reflexive pronouns, and focusing in particular on cross-linguistic differences that might come into play when the L1 and L2 differ with respect to whether long-distance antecedents are permitted e. There has been less work on Principle B. A few studies are relevant, either implicitly or explicitly, to the question of whether or not there is a DPBE in L2 acquisition; in particular, there are studies that compare performance on Principles A and B, looking only at cases involving referential antecedents.

Finer and Broselow were among the first to look at acquisition of an L2 English which permits only local antecedents for reflexives by speakers whose L1 Korean permits long-distance antecedents. What is less well known is that this study also included an examination of pronouns with referential antecedents. Lee and Schachter argue for windows of opportunity in L2 acquisition, proposing that there are sensitive periods for L1 and L2 acquisition, such that certain properties cannot be successfully acquired before the onset of the sensitive period or after the end of it.

Lee and Schachter tested this claim by looking at the L2 acquisition of Binding Principles A and B by Korean-speaking learners of English, with different ages of onset for the acquisition of English. Participants were tested on properties of reflexives and pronouns by means of a TVJT. Learners fell into various age categories at time of testing. The youngest groups 6—7 and 8—10 year olds performed better on reflexives than on pronouns, consistent with the idea that the windows of opportunity open at different times for these two principles, and also consistent with a DPBE.

White investigated pronoun interpretation by Japanese-speaking and French-speaking learners of English, of high intermediate proficiency, hypothesizing that adult learners would not show problems with pronouns, on the assumption that difficulties with pragmatics, processing or computation, argued to account for the difficulties of children, would not arise for adults. In other words, there was no evidence of a DPBE in the groups as a whole. However, there were three participants out of 28 , one francophone and two Japanese speakers, who consistently accepted local antecedents for pronouns.

Two recent studies investigated anaphor and pronoun interpretation in L2 acquisition using eye tracking. Patterson et al. In their experiment 2, participants read sentences which manipulated the gender of the potential antecedents.

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Native speakers and L2ers behaved alike: the non-local mismatch condition sentences like Jane remembered that John had taught him a new song resulted in longer reading times than the other conditions John remembered that Jane had taught him a new song; John remembered that Mark had taught him a new song.

While such results are consistent with the claim that L2ers are observing Principle B, the researchers question this interpretation. They added another experiment, involving clauses containing prepositional phrases e. In such cases, the pronoun exceptionally allows a local antecedent here Gavin , in violation of Principle B.

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Native speakers showed longer reading times when the object mismatched the pronoun in gender e. The L2ers, in contrast, showed longer reading times when the pronoun and the subject mismatched e. We return to this issue in the discussion. The second study to use eye-tracking, Kim et al. The study used the visual world paradigm. Participants were adult native speakers of English as well as Korean-speaking learners of English, of intermediate to advanced proficiency.

Participants had to manipulate various cartoon characters displayed on the screen, in accordance with auditory instructions. With a mouse click, a character could be picked up and moved along a trajectory to a goal. Results were calculated in terms of the correct movement of the characters toward a potential antecedent as well as by the speed of eye fixation onto the place where the character had to be moved. Results indicate that when they heard a sentence with a pronoun such as Look at Goofy. Have Mickey touch him , the native speakers overwhelmingly chose the antecedent to be Goofy.

Furthermore, comparing the time it took the participants to start looking at the subject of the test sentence when they heard the lead-in sentences, the native speakers looked at the subject character Mickey no more in the pronoun condition than in the name condition Have Mickey touch Donald. There was also a proficiency effect, in the sense that the lower proficiency learners took much more time to resolve the antecedent issue.

The researchers concluded that the learners interpreted reflexives in a nativelike way, but demonstrated much more inaccuracy, hesitation and time delays when processing pronouns. Few L2 studies have compared performance on referential and quantificational antecedents. One exception is Marinis and Chondrogianni who investigated the comprehension of reflexives and pronouns by children who are sequential bilinguals L1 Turkish, L2 English. These children mean age 7. The task, once again, was a TVJT. Test items included reflexives and pronouns; antecedents were referential or quantificational.

While Marinis and Chondrogianni do not directly compare performance on reflexives with performance on pronouns, they do show that the bilingual children performed like the monolinguals on reflexives and were less accurate than monolinguals on pronouns, which suggests that Principle B was more problematic for them than Principle A. Both groups showed a quantificational asymmetry in the case of pronouns.

Before turning to our own study, we briefly mention a different kind of approach, namely the Interface Hypothesis Sorace and Filiaci, , which also predicts problems with pronoun interpretation in L2. Sorace and Filiaci and Belletti et al. They attribute this overuse to problems at the syntax-discourse interface, namely a failure to fully appreciate the discourse requirements on overt pronouns, which imply a change in topic, unlike null pronouns which indicate topic continuity.

The work of these researchers has focused on interpretation of subject pronouns, where Principle B is not at issue. Nevertheless, there are some commonalities in that processing problems have been suggested as an explanation Sorace, , , a point we return to in the discussion. The research described above suggests that all might not be well when it comes to pronoun interpretation in the second language. In the following section, we report on an experiment to investigate whether or not there is a DPBE effect in L2 and, if so, whether it is attributable to computational complexity.

Our experiment does not focus on the comparison between anaphors and pronouns but instead on the interpretation of reduced versus full pronouns, and on the quantificational asymmetry with full pronoun antecedents. To anticipate the findings, we will show that learners of L2 English experience difficulties with pronoun interpretation.

Universal Grammar

However, this only happens when full pronouns are combined with referential antecedents. These findings are consistent with the assumption that computational complexity of the kind envisaged by Reinhart and colleagues is implicated. As already discussed, we follow Grodzinsky and Reinhart and Reinhart , in assuming that the DPBE reflects difficulties due to computational complexity caused by having to determine whether or not accidental coreference comes into play.

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We expect a similar difficulty of interpretation for L2ers, at least at lower levels of proficiency, attributable to the need to compute accidental coreference in the L2. Since accidental coreference is not possible with reduced pronouns or with quantified antecedents, we predict that learners will have difficulties only in cases where a full pronoun takes a referential antecedent.

To investigate this prediction, we set out to establish whether learners of English with French or Spanish as their native languages correctly interpret sentences with reduced and full pronouns bound by referential and quantificational antecedents. In contrast, French and Spanish are languages with object clitic pronouns, which differ in a number of respects from strong pronouns see Kayne, , for French. For example, as mentioned above, clitics cannot occur in isolation and are unstressed.

They also differ from strong pronouns in their syntactic positions: object clitics are preverbal when the verb is finite. Spanish and French differ somewhat with respect to placement of clitics with non-finite verbs. We put these differences to one side as our test items only include finite verbs and the position of object pronouns is not under investigation. Given the similarities between French and Spanish with respect to object clitics, we do not expect differences in response patterns based on L1. A hundred and twenty-five individuals participated in two experiments: 65 in the Full Pronoun experiment and 60 in the Reduced Pronoun experiment.

They comprised two groups of English native speakers, mostly recruited in Montreal, QC, Canada, and Southampton, United Kingdom, and four groups of learners of English with French or Spanish as their native languages, recruited and tested in Montreal.


The learners in both experiments had similar profiles. Most of them reported that they started learning English in a school setting The average age at which learners started to acquire English was The majority of the learners were living in Montreal, QC, Canada, for work or study purposes. Some indicated having some knowledge of other languages including French in the case of the native speakers of Spanish.

Seven learners reported that they were taking English classes at the time of their participation in the experiment. Testing took place individually or in small groups in the case of native speakers in a quiet lab. Participants took about half an hour to do the test plus about 10 min for the proficiency test, in the case of the learners and were remunerated for their participation. The test included 40 grammar-based multiple-choice items, with a maximum score of As will be discussed in the next section, we treat proficiency as a continuous variable.

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The participant must decide whether a test statement is True or False as a description of a particular situation. The Condition of Plausible Dissent is satisfied if the grammatically inaccessible antecedent has been under consideration and is a genuine potential outcome of the story that almost comes to pass but in the end does not. This requirement ensures that the decision in the TVJT is taken on the basis of grammar, rather than the pragmatics of the story.

Following Conroy et al. In addition, all stories mentioned multiple characters so that the stories in the quantified antecedent condition did not involve more characters than stories in the referential antecedent condition. In the test conditions, each story is compatible with a reflexive as well as a pronominal interpretation. In addition, we introduced another variable in our design. Within each condition Referential antecedent, Quantified antecedent, filler , 4 sentences expected a True answer and 4 a False answer. Only the False-answer test sentences obey the above-mentioned TVJT design requirements; those expecting the True-answer serve as additional fillers.

We did not vary the factor quantified versus referential antecedent within items, because it was difficult to construct plausible stories that would fit both types of antecedents. We also did not vary the factor reduced versus full pronouns within participants, because we were concerned that a response bias or confusion might have been introduced if learners were exposed to both types of pronouns. In what follows, we examine some representative context stories and explain how they satisfy or fail to satisfy the Requirements of Disputability and Availability.

It is important to keep in mind that the contexts were presented visually in writing on a computer screen and aurally; test sentences were presented only aurally, since it was crucial that participants heard the form of the pronoun full or reduced , rather than reading it. Tom, Helen, and Harry were going to a soccer party. Prizes were going to be given out for the best spray-painted logo. They all sprayed the logo of their favorite soccer teams on their arms.

Tom badly wanted to win the competition, so he asked his friends to help him make his logo even better. Helen refused to help because she wanted to win as well. Harry wanted to help Tom, but he had no spray-paint left. The anaphoric local, co-referential reading Harry sprayed himself is available in this story, because all the three characters sprayed the logo of their favorite teams on themselves. The non-coreferential non-anaphoric interpretation Harry sprayed Tom is potentially available and under consideration, but in the end does not come to pass because there is no paint left.

Thus the requirement of Disputability is satisfied. In order to consider the requirement of Availability further, we compare this referential condition story with a quantificational condition story such as the one in 9 , in which the expected answer is also False. Jim, Jack, and Bert always drive to college, each of them using his own car. But this week, on Monday Jim forgot to pick John up. On Tuesday, Jack overslept and drove to class alone. Only Bert was true to his word and drove John to school on Wednesday.

In parallel with the test item in 8 , the anaphoric interpretation in 9 is available and prominent, because the three characters, Jim, Jack and Bert, always drive to school, each one using their own car, hence they drive themselves. The non-anaphoric interpretation Every student drove John to school is potentially under consideration and actually promised, but it never comes to pass due to highly individuated circumstances.

Finally, the available propositions evaluated by the participants are closely matched in the stories in 8 and 9. Christopher, Mary, and Ben work in a bakery. Christopher and Mary bake bread and pastries and Ben sells them. Mary always wears an apron but Christopher does not.

At the end of each day, Christopher is very dusty from all the flour. In this story, the anaphoric interpretation is missing: Ben never dusts himself off. The requirement of Disputability is also not obeyed: there is nothing to dispute since the action is actually confirmed. In addition to violating the TVJT requirements, these stories are easier to interpret, since the correct pronominal interpretation the non-anaphoric one is rather prominent.

In addition to stories with referential or quantificational antecedents, the experiment included stories followed by test sentences containing full NPs in object position. These items were also treated as fillers; see Anne, Margo, Celia and Rita find an old empty house and spend all day playing inside.

They get covered in dust. They try to clean the dust off themselves but Anne is no good at it. Anne asks Rita to help her, but Rita is too tired. Celia has already gone home. In the end, Margo agrees to help and does a great job. To summarize, we have 8 test items in each experiment responses where the expected answer is False , and 16 filler. Within the items involving pronouns, 4 had referential and 4 had quantificational antecedents.

The context stories were identical in the two experiments. The presentation software SurveyGizmo randomized the order of item presentation for each participant. The maximal converging model included the following predictors: native language French or Spanish , proficiency score continuous variable , antecedent referential or quantified , pronoun full or reduced , and the interaction between antecedent and pronoun. In addition, the model included a by-item random intercept and a by-speaker random slope for antecedent, to account for the variation among test items and the variation among speakers with regard to antecedent, respectively.

In order to compare the accuracy of learners and native controls, we performed two chi-square tests, one comparing the groups with respect to their accuracy on the fillers, the other comparing their accuracy on the target items.