The metrical basis for children's subjectless sentences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

130 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Young English speakers often omit sentential subjects but infrequently omit objects. In this paper I consider five accounts for these omissions that differ in the explanation of why children make omissions (grammar versus production constraints) and what causes the asymmetry in subject and object omissions. Hyams (1986, Language acquisition and the theory of parameters, Dordrecht, Reidel; 1987, Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, October) proposes that children are born with an innate grammar that causes them to omit pronominal subjects. Valian (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 156-163) notes that subject deletion is acceptable in casual adult English: Based on these data, children omit subjects when sentence complexity puts too great a burden on the production system. On a pragmatic account (Bates, 1976, Language and context. New York: Academic Press; Greenfield & Smith, 1976, The structure of communication in early language development. New York: Academic Press), children have limited production abilities and omit the least communicatively informative elements: Because subjects typically contain given information, they are frequently omitted. P. Bloom (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 57-63) argues that processing considerations cause children to expand sentences rightward, at the expense of leftward elements. Finally, I propose a metrical hypothesis in which children omit weakly stressed syllables, including pronouns and other function morphemes, particularly from iambic (weak-strong) feet. Data from an imitation task strongly support the metrical hypothesis over the others. The results are examined in light of a model of developing speech production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-451
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Language Development
Child Language
Child Development
language
Language
cause
grammar
Aptitude
Foot
Communication
imitation
Processing
language acquisition
asymmetry
pragmatics
Omission
Causes
communication
ability
Grammar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

The metrical basis for children's subjectless sentences. / Gerken, Louann.

In: Journal of Memory and Language, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1991, p. 431-451.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{782a10d47385470a933739af65f2b75d,
title = "The metrical basis for children's subjectless sentences",
abstract = "Young English speakers often omit sentential subjects but infrequently omit objects. In this paper I consider five accounts for these omissions that differ in the explanation of why children make omissions (grammar versus production constraints) and what causes the asymmetry in subject and object omissions. Hyams (1986, Language acquisition and the theory of parameters, Dordrecht, Reidel; 1987, Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, October) proposes that children are born with an innate grammar that causes them to omit pronominal subjects. Valian (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 156-163) notes that subject deletion is acceptable in casual adult English: Based on these data, children omit subjects when sentence complexity puts too great a burden on the production system. On a pragmatic account (Bates, 1976, Language and context. New York: Academic Press; Greenfield & Smith, 1976, The structure of communication in early language development. New York: Academic Press), children have limited production abilities and omit the least communicatively informative elements: Because subjects typically contain given information, they are frequently omitted. P. Bloom (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 57-63) argues that processing considerations cause children to expand sentences rightward, at the expense of leftward elements. Finally, I propose a metrical hypothesis in which children omit weakly stressed syllables, including pronouns and other function morphemes, particularly from iambic (weak-strong) feet. Data from an imitation task strongly support the metrical hypothesis over the others. The results are examined in light of a model of developing speech production.",
author = "Louann Gerken",
year = "1991",
doi = "10.1016/0749-596X(91)90015-C",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "30",
pages = "431--451",
journal = "Journal of Memory and Language",
issn = "0749-596X",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The metrical basis for children's subjectless sentences

AU - Gerken, Louann

PY - 1991

Y1 - 1991

N2 - Young English speakers often omit sentential subjects but infrequently omit objects. In this paper I consider five accounts for these omissions that differ in the explanation of why children make omissions (grammar versus production constraints) and what causes the asymmetry in subject and object omissions. Hyams (1986, Language acquisition and the theory of parameters, Dordrecht, Reidel; 1987, Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, October) proposes that children are born with an innate grammar that causes them to omit pronominal subjects. Valian (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 156-163) notes that subject deletion is acceptable in casual adult English: Based on these data, children omit subjects when sentence complexity puts too great a burden on the production system. On a pragmatic account (Bates, 1976, Language and context. New York: Academic Press; Greenfield & Smith, 1976, The structure of communication in early language development. New York: Academic Press), children have limited production abilities and omit the least communicatively informative elements: Because subjects typically contain given information, they are frequently omitted. P. Bloom (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 57-63) argues that processing considerations cause children to expand sentences rightward, at the expense of leftward elements. Finally, I propose a metrical hypothesis in which children omit weakly stressed syllables, including pronouns and other function morphemes, particularly from iambic (weak-strong) feet. Data from an imitation task strongly support the metrical hypothesis over the others. The results are examined in light of a model of developing speech production.

AB - Young English speakers often omit sentential subjects but infrequently omit objects. In this paper I consider five accounts for these omissions that differ in the explanation of why children make omissions (grammar versus production constraints) and what causes the asymmetry in subject and object omissions. Hyams (1986, Language acquisition and the theory of parameters, Dordrecht, Reidel; 1987, Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, October) proposes that children are born with an innate grammar that causes them to omit pronominal subjects. Valian (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 156-163) notes that subject deletion is acceptable in casual adult English: Based on these data, children omit subjects when sentence complexity puts too great a burden on the production system. On a pragmatic account (Bates, 1976, Language and context. New York: Academic Press; Greenfield & Smith, 1976, The structure of communication in early language development. New York: Academic Press), children have limited production abilities and omit the least communicatively informative elements: Because subjects typically contain given information, they are frequently omitted. P. Bloom (1989, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 28, 57-63) argues that processing considerations cause children to expand sentences rightward, at the expense of leftward elements. Finally, I propose a metrical hypothesis in which children omit weakly stressed syllables, including pronouns and other function morphemes, particularly from iambic (weak-strong) feet. Data from an imitation task strongly support the metrical hypothesis over the others. The results are examined in light of a model of developing speech production.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=33744817231&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=33744817231&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/0749-596X(91)90015-C

DO - 10.1016/0749-596X(91)90015-C

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:33744817231

VL - 30

SP - 431

EP - 451

JO - Journal of Memory and Language

JF - Journal of Memory and Language

SN - 0749-596X

IS - 4

ER -