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date: 16 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Some languages have obligatory overt subjects in all person and tense combinations (e.g., English); some have optional overt subjects in all combinations (e.g., Italian; Chinese); some are mixed (e.g., Hebrew, Shipibo). Parameter setting is less workable an explanation for language variation than is a feature approach. Children in non-null subject languages produce more subjects than do children in null subject languages; children of all language types gradually produce more subjects, especially pronominal subjects, as development proceeds; children are most likely to produce subjects that fit a prosodic template, have high information content, or are in shorter utterances; children produce fewer subjects than obligatory objects. No current acquisition theory—purely competence, purely performance, or hybrid—explains all the behavioral phenomena.

Keywords: null subjects, cross-linguistic, parameter-setting, overt subjects, acquisition

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