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Where's ellipsis? Whether and why there are missing arguments in Hebrew child language

1 / Ruth A Berman

*Correspondence address: Sigal Uziel-Karl, P.O. Box 803, Reut 71908, Israel.

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 38, Issue 3, Pages 457–482, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/ling.38.3.457, February 2008

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Published Online:


This paper concerns subject and object ellipsis in Hebrew child language from two perspectives: the conditions that govern subject versus object ellipsis and the distinction between early and late omissions. We propose that in Hebrew child language (and possibly in early child language in general), subject ellipsis is initially motivated mainly by pragmatic factors, which are subsequently supplemented by morphosyntactic rules of the grammar. Object ellipsis, in contrast, is motivated only by pragmatic or semantic factors, not grammatically. It is a robust phenomenon, but far less widespread than subject ellipsis in both child and adult Hebrew.

To demonstrate these claims, longitudinal data are analyzed for four Hebrew-speaking children between the ages 1;5 and 2;4, from their first word combinations to partial command of simple clause structure, supplemented by less systematic data from four other children. The analysis focuses on simple clause structure as the stage when verb argument structure (VAS) first emerges. Also, this period in children's language development allows for comparison with other studies on acquisition of null subjects and of VAS.

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