Anaphora resolution in basquean experimental study on the interpretation of null and overt subject pronouns by children and adults

Supervised by:
  1. Maria José Ezeizabarrena Segurola Director

Defence university: Universidad del País Vasco - Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

Fecha de defensa: 14 April 2014

  1. Itziar Idiazabal Gorrotxategi Chair
  2. Mikel Santesteban Insausti Secretary
  3. Jürgen M. Meisel Committee member
  4. Ricardo Etxepare Committee member
  5. Aurora Bel Committee member
  1. Lingüística y Estudios Vascos

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 116646 DIALNET


This work focuses on the comprehension of null and overt subject pronouns (NSPs and OSPs) in intrasentential anaphora contexts in Basque, a language which employs overt referential devices that fall out of the scope of what traditionally counts as third person pronouns, namely the demonstrative hura `that¿ and the quasipronoun bera `(s)he (him/herself)¿. Data from native adults obtained from two experimental off-line tasks on the referential properties and the discourse features of NSPs and OSPs set a baseline for comparison with a) the insights reported in descriptive grammars and with b) developmental data from 6-8-year-old c(hild) L1 and c(hild)L2. Adult data corroborate previous findings highlighting the division of labour between NSPs and OSPs. In a Picture Selection Task, NSPs were predominantly coreferent with the subject. In contrast, bera, but especially hura, were interpreted as referring to the extrasentential referent. The results were replicated in an Acceptability Judgement Task, where adults selected NSPs in topic maintenance contexts, whereas hura and to a lesser degree bera were selected in topic shift contexts. The data reveal similar response patterns of children and adults for NSPs but different ones for OSPs. Both, cL1 and cL2, showed a general preference for intrasentential coreference regardless of pronoun type in the Picture Selection Task and they preferred NSPs to OSPs in the Acceptability Judgement Task. Thus, the interpretable [+topic shift] feature, mapped onto the overt pronoun in the adult grammar, has not been fully acquired by cL1 and cL2 participants, consistent with crosslinguistic studies. Children¿s delay in the properties of OSPs and their general preference for the null pronoun seem to be related to the low frequency of OSPs. Thus, Basque child data do not face the paradox between the linguistic-default (null pronoun) and the learner-default (overt pronoun) observed in other NS languages, since it is the null pronoun which functions as both, the linguistic and the learner-default in Basque.