Information tracking and encoding in early L1: linguistic competence vs. cognitive limitations
This study provides experimental evidence for preschool children’s competence in basic information structure, with particular attention to the notions of topic and focus. It investigates their mastery of structural and definiteness distinctions to encode the information status of discourse referents, and seeks to distinguish linguistic competence from cognitive development as the source for children’s ‘errors’. Evidence comes from a story-telling experiment performed on 45 children acquiring French (between the ages of 2 ; 6·22 and 5 ; 6·15). The article demonstrates continuity between the child and adult systems of basic discourse representation. It further argues that children’s definiteness errors are not due to a lack of knowledge of the adult rules of information encoding. Rather, such errors stem from cognitive limitations and from assuming a wider common ground than adults would.
from the Journal of Child Language