Kenneth Wexler

  • Principle B, VP Ellipsis, and Interpretation in Child Grammar

    Principle B, VP Ellipsis, and Interpretation in Child Grammar

    Rosalind Thornton and Kenneth Wexler

    This is the first experimental study of Principle B with verb phrase ellipsis and properties of the interpretation of empty pronouns in ellipsis.

    Among the universal principles are those known as the principles of the binding theory. These principles constrain the range of interpretations that can be assigned to sentences containing reflexives and reciprocals, pronouns, and referring expressions. The principle that is relevant for pronouns, Principle B, has provided a fertile ground for the study of linguistic development. Although it has long been known that children make certain kinds of errors that appear to contradict this principle, further experimental and theoretical investigation reveals that the child does know the grammatical principle, but implements the pragmatic knowledge incorrectly. In fact, discoveries concerning children's knowledge of Principle B are among the most well-known in the study of language acquisition because of the dissociation between syntactic and pragmatic knowledge (binding versus reference).

    In this book the authors deepen and extend the results of years of developmental investigation of Principle B by studying the interaction of Principle B with verb phrase ellipsis and properties of the interpretation of empty pronouns in ellipsis—properties of "strict" and "sloppy" interpretation. This is the first experimental study of these topics in the developmental literature. The striking results show that detailed predictions from the "pragmatic deficiency" theory seem to be correct. Many novel experimental results concern the question of how children interpret pronouns, including elided pronouns, and how they understand VP ellipsis. The authors present the necessary theoretical background on Principle B, review and critique previous accounts of childrens errors, and present a novel account of why children misinterpret pronouns. The book will thus be of interest not only to readers interested in the development of the binding theory, but to those interested in the development of interpretation and reference by children.

    • Hardcover $10.75 £8.99

Contributor

  • The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

    The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

    Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

    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.

    This volume brings together contributions by prominent researchers in the fields of language processing and language acquisition on topics of common interest: how people refer to objects in the world, how people comprehend such referential expressions, and how children acquire the ability to refer and to understand reference. The contributors first discuss issues related to children's acquisition and processing of reference, then consider evidence of adults' processing of reference from eye-tracking methods (the visual-world paradigm) and from corpora and reading experiments. They go on to discuss such topics as how children resolve ambiguity, children's difficulty in understanding coreference, the use of eye movements to physical objects to measure the accessibility of different referents, the uses of probabilistic and pragmatic information in language comprehension, antecedent accessibility and salience in reference, and neuropsychological data from the event-related potential (ERP) recording literature.

    • Hardcover $10.75 £8.99