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Verbs and Subjects: Some Data from French

Date and Time: 
Thursday, February 25, 2016. 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 460, Room 126
Meeting Description: 
Speaker:
Eve Clark is Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University.
 
In this talk, I take up the problem children face as they sort out the different forms verbs can take.   I will present data from French where the verb paradigm is replete with homophones within tenses, across person and number, and for forms such as the infinitive and the past participle in all class-1 verbs (~85% of verbs in French). I argue that, given the homophonous nature of present tense forms, for example, as well as the INF and PP forms, children must rely on both exposure and feedback from adult speakers during acquisition.   I use longitudinal data to establish that children build up complex verb forms by focusing on the left edge and adding successive adjacent forms, as in the sequence: sauté /sote/ ‘jump(s)’ "  a sauté /asote/ ‘has jumped’ "  il a sauté  /iasote/ ‘he has jumped’.  Because they pay attention to the left-edge, they add clitic subjects first to present tense verb forms (je saute /ʒəsot/, il saute /isot/) and only later to complex future and past forms, after adding modal and auxiliary verbs (il va sauter /ivasote/ ‘he’s going to jump’, il a sauté /iasote/ ‘he has jumped’ ). Only after this do children start to make use of emphatic subject pronouns (moi –Emph1P, lui –Emph3P) and lexical subjects (le chien, il court ‘the dog, he’s running = the dog is running’).

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