The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Language Acquisition Lab Meeting 11/12 - Koji Sugisaki

Speaker: Koji Sugisaki (Mie University)
Title: An Experimental Investigation into Sluicing in Child Japanese
Date and room: Thursday: 5-6:30; 32-D461

Sluicing is one of the best investigated instances of ellipsis in the theoretical literature. Despite its theoretical importance, few studies have examined children’s acquisition of this ellipsis phenomenon. In light of this background, this study investigates experimentally whether Japanese-speaking preschool children are sensitive to the identity condition on sluicing proposed by Merchant (2013), which requires that the sluiced constituent and its antecedent must match in voice (active/passive). If this ban on voice mismatches in sluicing follows from certain principles of UG as the theory claims, it is predicted that the knowledge of this constraint should be in the grammar of preschool children. In order to evaluate this prediction, we conducted an experiment with 21 Japanese-speaking children (mean age 5;07). The results of our experiment, which employed a question-after-story task, suggest that these children are in fact sensitive to the ban on voice mismatches in sluicing proposed by Merchant (2013). This finding would constitute a small but significant step toward understanding when and how children acquire the knowledge of sluicing and its constraints.