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Signs of a developing grammar: subject drop and inflection in early child Dutch

The objective of this article is to describe and explain changes in subject drop in early child language. The empirical basis of this study is provided by longitudinal spontaneous speech data from six monolingual children acquiring Dutch. The samples begin when the children enter the two-word stage, which is generally around their second birthday. The samples end when the children are able to make adult-like multiword sentences (around their third birthday). The results indicate that children learn the licensing conditions for subjects in this period, going through phases in which they overdrop subjects in finite sentences and overuse subjects in nonfinite clauses. The shape of the curves modeling subject drop indicates that, at a certain point of time, children reorganize their use of subjects. At the same time inflectional morphology comes in. This article defends the claim that this co-occurrence is not accidental, but that knowledge of verbal inflection is a prerequisite for the acquisition of rule-governed subject use. 1. Introduction Children omit many words. In the literature on child language, various attempts have been made to explain the early omissions in a principled way. One influential example of such an attempt can be found in the work http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Linguistics - An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences de Gruyter

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