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date: 21 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Young children’s use of referring expressions raises the issue of the intertwining of morphosyntactic, semantic, and pragmatic aspects of language acquisition. After presenting the milestones of the formal acquisition of referring expressions, this chapter presents the main results of research on child reference along two main lines: studies on the expression of arguments; and studies on determiners. Whereas studies in naturally occurring settings show a precocious competence in the use of referring expressions, studies on narratives and other experimental settings tend to show late mastery of referential values. Various factors can account for this paradox, including the conceptions of reference, the representation of the child’s cognitive development and of her involvement in dialogue, and more specifically the combined influence of the interlocutor’s discourse, of positioning, and of discourse genres and activities.

Keywords: language acquisition, dialogue, narratives, referring expressions, determiners, discourse genres

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