White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

Experimental Evidence for Preschoolers' Mastery of "Topic"

De Cat, C. (2009) Experimental Evidence for Preschoolers' Mastery of "Topic". Language Acquisition, 16 (4). pp. 224-239. ISSN 1532-7817


This study investigates the acquisition of the discourse/pragmatic notion of topic, based on an experimental task eliciting topic vs. focus subjects. In spoken French, these are obligatorily realized as dislocated vs. nondislocated noun phrases. The results provide overwhelming evidence for the early mastery of topic, even by the youngest children (2;6). The only difficulty was in the evaluation of fine-grained salience distinctions, leading to the underuse of full noun phrases in ambiguous contexts. A theory of mind test revealed that the ability to assess their listener’s knowledge state is not sufficient to explain this underuse. Instead, children’s overreliance on the situational context as a source of complementary information to disambiguate their utterances is argued to have a major impact on how explicit they are.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: information structure, discourse, topic, focus, French, first language acquisition
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Modern Languages and Cultures (Leeds) > Linguistics & Phonetics (Leeds)
Funding Information:
FunderGrant number
Depositing User: Dr Cecile De Cat
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2010 13:26
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2014 04:28
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10489220903190612
Status: Published
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1080/10489220903190612
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10746

Actions (repository staff only: login required)