- The acquisition of reference: pragmatic aspects and the influence of language input
- Journal of Pragmatics
- Volume | Issue number
- 42 | 7
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
This study investigates the acquisition of pragmatic aspects of reference and its relationship to adult input. English two- to three-year-old children were studied to determine whether they differentiate their use of determiners and pronouns with respect to the new/given distinction in discourse and the perspective of the listener (mutual knowledge vs. no mutual knowledge, physically present vs. physically absent). A sample of input language to the children was also analyzed for frequency and consistency with which determiners and pronouns were used in relation to these pragmatic conditions. Adult-like use of forms for new/given was reached by 2;9, development being quicker in determiners than pronouns. The sampled input reflected less consistency in pronoun use and can explain the slower development. In perspective-taking skills, the children have not reached an adult level in determiner use by 3;3. In determiner use, sensitivity to the listener's perspective develops more slowly than sensitivity to the new/given distinction. This can be related not only to the children's developing perspective-taking skills, but also to the input. The children receive little evidence for distinguishing mutual knowledge from no mutual knowledge. It is concluded that input frequency and consistency are relevant for the acquisition of new/given and listener's perspective in reference.
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