What does the clitic mean in linguistics

The acquisition of clitic object pronouns in the monolingual first language acquisition of French - An empirical study based on the Grégoire corpus (CHILDES)


1. Introduction

2. Theoretical background
2.1. Clitic pronouns within the French pronominal system
2.2. On the syntax of clitic pronouns
2.3. For language acquisition

3. Evaluation of the data
3.1. Question
3.2. To the data
3.3. To the method
3.4. evaluation
3.5. Occurrence of object clitics and transitive verbs
3.5. Distribution of the individual object ratings in the Grégoire corpus

4. Discussion
4.1. Occurrence of transitive verbs
4.2. Consideration of the restrictions

5. Conclusion

6. Sources

7. Appendix
7.1. First utterances with transitive verbs
7.2. Statements with object clitics in the Grégoire corpus

1. Introduction

In the present work the acquisition of the clitic object pronouns in the first language acquisition of French is to be examined using the example of Grégoire (1; 9 - 2; 5) (CHILDES).

French is the only one of the Romance languages ​​to have both object clitics and a complete system of clitic subject pronouns. Clitic pronouns are subject to a large number of restrictions that precisely define their syntactic position. For example, you can only stand directly next to the verb (verb adjacent); as soon as a non-clitic element came between it and the verb, an utterance would become ungrammatic. Syntactically, object clitics, which are the main focus here, are analyzed as functional heads that are in I ° with their licensing head. They occupy the lowest category of the pronoun hierarchy established by Cardinaletti and Starke (1998) clitics, over those in this system itself the subject klitka as weak pronouns stand.

The aim now is to examine, using the example of the Grégoire corpus, whether or not French-speaking children take into account the strict syntactic restrictions that apply to object clitics from the start.

After an overview of the French pronominal system and a detailed description of the restrictions on object clitics, the present corpus is examined for the occurrence of clitic object pronouns.

Expanding the subject, the occurrence of transitive verbs, which are the prerequisite for the use of clitic pronouns, is also to be documented.

Chomsky (1989, quoted from Radford, 1995) assumes in his principle and parameter theory, which is intended to form the theoretical framework of this work, that a parameter is fixed for each functional category in the course of language acquisition, which is not the following more can be implemented. Most previous studies on the acquisition of clitics have come to the conclusion, not only for French, but also for Spanish and Italian (see e.g. Schmitz & Müller, 2003; Hamann, Rizzi and Frauenfelder, 1996) that clitics, as soon as they occur, used correctly. If this is also confirmed for the present corpus, it can be assumed that the corresponding parameter is already fixed before the first appearance of clitic object pronouns. After the data has been evaluated in detail, this should be checked again on the present corpus.

All utterances in which Klitika occur and the first utterances with transitive by Grégoire can be found in the appendix to this work (Section 7.).

2. Theoretical background

2.1. Clitic pronouns within the French pronominal system

Pronouns generally differ from nominal expressions in that they do not always refer to the same objects of the extra-linguistic world regardless of the linguistic context (cf. Bußmann, 2002). Their reference can only be determined by the fact that they have a “certain pragmatic, semantic and / or syntactic relationship to a reference element (antecedent)” (Kaiser 1992, p. 11). The grammatical function of a pronoun, i.e. the occupation of the subject or object position in the sentence, is not inherent in it, but rather due to the phraseological configuration in which the pronoun is located.

The term clitic comes from the ancient Greek word "egklínein" (´ (to) lean`). Even the Greek grammarians used the term “enclitic” for a weakly toned or unstressed element that leans towards another element and is more or less closely connected to it (cf. Kaiser, 1992, p. 16). A characteristic feature of clitics is this tendency to lean on or to tie in with another element in the sentence.

Of the Romance languages, French has the most comprehensive system of clitic personal pronouns, as it has a complete class of clitic subject pronouns in addition to the clitic object pronouns found in all Romance languages.

Divided into strong and clitic pronouns, the pronominal system of French is shown in Table 1 below. More details on the syntactic classification of clitics follow in Chap. 2.2. this job.

Figure not included in this excerpt

The forms of the clitic pronouns in French are morphologically not very complex, because they only consist of a morpheme, cannot be emphasized, as mentioned above, and represent a small, self-contained group of words.

Let us now first look at the properties of French clitics in general, in order to distinguish them from strong pronouns. Unless otherwise stated, the following examples of subject and object clitics apply:

- A clitic can only be verb adjacently (directly next to the verb) (1a). In positive imperatives it comes directly after the verb (1c), in the other cases there is a proclise, i.e. the clitic comes directly before the verb, from which it can only be separated by another clitic (1e).
(1) a. Je la vois.
b. * Je la souvent vois.
c. Fais-le!
d. * Fais maintenant le!
e. Je le lui donne.

- A clitonic can therefore not occur in isolation.
(2) a. Qui est venu? * Il.
b. Qui as-tu rencontré? * La.

- It cannot be coordinated with other pronouns either.
(3) a. * Elle et il mangent.
b. * Je le et la invite.

- It cannot be modified.
(4) a. * Elles deux travaillent.
b. * Je les deux ai vues.

- It cannot be emphasized in contrast.
(5) a. * IL viendra, pas Jean.
b. * Je LE connais, pas Marie.

- Object clitics have a restricted scope; they have to be repeated with each new TP (6a), in contrast to subject clitics (6b).
(6) a. * Je le prendrai et mangerai.
b. Il fait ses devoirs et mange une pomme.

- Klitika can refer to +/- human, while strong pronouns are limited to human reference.
(8) a. * Depuis que mon père s´est acheté ce bateau, il ne parle que de lui.
b. Pierre, je le verrai demain.
c. Ce bateau, il l'adore.

- the position of the tied pronouns is strictly defined.
(9) a. Je le lui donne.
b. * Je lui le donne.
c. Il me le donne
d. * Il le me donne.

2.2. On the syntax of clitic pronouns

As we noted above, pronouns always have an antecedent to which they refer and which determines their semantic reference and syntactic functions.

In generative theory it is now assumed from many sides that clitic object pronouns are generated in the base position of the object complement and from there are moved into their surface position (that of the verb) (cf. Kayne, 1975).

They are then with their licensing head, the verb, in a syntactic position, so they are not independent XPs. Kaiser (1992) carries out the following constituent tests on pronounability (10) and topicalization / dislocation (11) on the clitic pronouns of French in order to determine the above. To confirm acceptance:

(10) a. The lack. -> * Moi mange.
b. Je te vois. -> * Je vois toi.
c. Il mange. -> Lui mange.
d. Je le reconnais. -> Je reconnais lui (là-bas dans le fond).

(11) a. * Il, (il) a rencontré une fille.
b. * La, je (ne) (la) reconnais pas.

Example (10) shows that clitics are mostly not pronominalizable, while (11) shows that clitics can never be topicalized or dislocated.

The constituent tests quoted by Kaiser speak in favor of accepting subject and object clitics together with the verb in I °. As far as the French subject clitica is concerned, however, this position is controversial. Cardinaletti and Starke (1998), for example, establish the following hierarchy of pronouns: strong pronoun-> weak pronoun-> clitic and only assign the object classics to the status clitic to. As with Kaiser (1992), these are then in a position with their licensing head, the verb. According to Cardinaletti and Starke (1998), however, subject clitics are weak pronouns and are available as full XPs in I °. They are only limited to appearing in strict association with their licensing head (the verb).

Since there is broad agreement on the syntactic representation of the object clitica we are investigating, the explanations on the syntax of other pronouns come to an end here.

(12) shows what an object clitic would look like within a structure tree.


- Structure tree

2.3. For language acquisition

The aim of this work is to use Grégoire's data to investigate when and in what way object clitics occur in French language acquisition by children. This is of interest insofar as it is assumed in generative theory (Chomsky, 1986a, quoted in Radford, 1995) that language acquisition - within a language and at a high level of abstraction within all languages ​​- takes place in fixed steps.

Radford (1995) found in his work on sentence structure in child language acquisition that children generally acquire lexical categories before functional categories. At this point he cites Chomsky's “functional parameterization hypothesis” (Chomsky, 1989, quoted in Radford, 1995, p. 497), which states that parameterization in the basement takes place exclusively in the system of functional categories. The properties of the lexical categories, on the other hand, are innate with the principles of universal grammar, so they do not have to be parameterized by the child.

At the beginning of language acquisition, VPs and NPs are formed which only contain lexical categories. Functional categories, including those that have content, such as articles and many prepositions, do not appear in early childhood utterances. Radford (1995), among other things, describe how the functional categories are then acquired within the “syntax spurt” (at around 24 months) according to the sentence levels DP-> IP-> CP, which is justified by the fact that these levels build on one another, ie the Formation of a CP is not possible if the I system has not yet been acquired.

Although this classification is fundamental, it is not very profound, since of course different functional elements can already be found within the IP, which by no means all occur at the same time in language acquisition. An example are the two types of clitic pronouns in French, both of which are in the IP and of which the object clitics occur significantly later than the clitic subject pronouns (see e.g. Hamann, Rizzi, Frauenfelder, 1996).


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