This book investigates the acquisition of pronominal elements by monolingual children acquiring English and Brazilian Portuguese as their native languages. Previous studies have found non-adult behavior in children’s use and comprehension of pronouns in two syntactic contexts: resumptive pronouns in relative clauses and anaphoric pronouns bound by argumental noun phrases. Children perform similarly on both contexts, incorrectly accepting these cases at chance level. The age-range when this chance performance is detected is the same in both cases, around 4 and 5 years.The present study offers a unifying account for such behavior, assuming that bound pronouns are always last resort, whose use requires trans-derivational comparison. Along the lines of previous work done by Grodzinsky and Reinhart (1993), it is claimed that such a comparison is too demanding for young children, as their limited working memory cannot handle complex computations.Two sets of experiments were carried out, testing the same children on both contexts. The results show that those behaving at chance in one context had the same behavior in the other. They also showed that children had chance level performance not only with pronouns bound by referential antecedents, but also with quantified ones.These results are compatible with the view that children’s problems with bound pronouns are related to processing difficulties rather than to the lack of some linguistic knowledge.
Elaine Grolla is Assistant Professor at the Department of Linguistics at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. She received her PhD from the University of Connecticut at Storrs, USA, in 2005.