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Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

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Increasing cohesion in narratives: a developmental study of maintaining and reintroducing subjects in French

*Correspondence address: Dynamique du Langage, Institut des Sciences de l'Homme, 14, avenue Berthelot, F-69363 Lyon Cedex, France.

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 38, Issue 3, Pages 591–620, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.38.3.591, February 2008

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The informational adequacy of children's referential expressions in narrative texts has received considerable attention in the literature (Warden 1976, 1981; Karmiloff–Smith 1981, 1986; Hickmann 1987, 1991; Bamberg 1987; Wigglesworth 1990, 1997; Kail and Hickmann 1992; Berman and Slobin 1994; Hickmann et al. 1995; Van der Lely 1997). Much of this research has concentrated on the referential appropriateness of form of the noun phrase (definite or indefinite). While various factors have been proposed to explain children's gradual mastery of referential adequacy, this particular study focuses on how development in productive syntax influences referential cohesion. Two particular narrative discourse contexts in which definite reference is required are examined: maintaining a subject referent across clauses and reactivating an already-introduced subject referent. It is shown that the inventory of potential grammatical structures increases with development. Particular emphasis is given to subject pronoun ellipsis and to nonfinite subordination, two grammatical means of establishing cohesion across clauses. The results show that both subject ellipsis and nonfinite subordination as cohesive referential expressions increase with age. Two different sources of development change in production are explored: formal complexity of the form and appropriateness of that form in a given context.

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