Start-end : 2016-2019

Summary:

This operation focus on the acquisition of the elements that have been considered as syntactic adjuncts: VP and sentential modifiers that correspond to prepositional, adverbial or sentential constituents, in French and in European Portuguese. The first aim of the operation is to contribute to the understanding of what adjunction is and of how it operates in the child grammar. We will suppose that there is a contrast between a syntactic operation that builds up structure (Merge) and another kind of operation that combines an adjunct and its target into a single unit (Lebeaux 1988, Chomsky 2000, 2004). We will seek an answer for the following questions: i) do children differentiate both operations from the moment they start combining words? ii) can acquisition data provide independent arguments in favour of the existence of two central specialised operations in the Narrow Syntax? iii) what is the status of adjunction in initial grammar? iv) do children have an adult-like representation of the first structures presenting a verbal or a clausal modifier in the early data?

We expect to achieve results that will contribute to the characterization of the properties of adjuncts in child language and to get a precise description of the differences between adults’ and children’s production as far as structures involving adjunction are concerned.

Results:

From the analysis of the spontaneous production of French and Portuguese children, we obtained some preliminary results: i) arguments (direct objects) emerge before VP modifiers, ii) Adjoin is not operative in initial grammar, iii) when Adjoin becomes operative, it only targets peripheral positions, iv) Adjoin is not more accessible to the child than Merge, unlike it has been proposed by several researchers (Roeper 1992 ; Jakubowicz & Tuller 2008, among others), v) children progressively learn what the different categories that may be adjuncts are and what the different adjunction sites are.