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GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory. Week 10. The Trouble With Principle B. Binding Theory. Binding Theory Constraints on assignment of reference. Reflexives ( himself , herself , themselves , …) Pronouns ( he , she , they , him , her , …) Names (inherent reference).

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grs lx 700 language acquisition and linguistic theory

GRS LX 700Language Acquisition andLinguistic Theory

Week 10.The Trouble With Principle B

binding theory
Binding Theory
  • Binding TheoryConstraints on assignment of reference.
  • Reflexives (himself, herself, themselves, …)
  • Pronouns (he, she, they, him, her, …)
  • Names (inherent reference)
binding theory1
Binding Theory
  • Principle AA reflexive (herself) must be bound within its governing category.
    • A binds B iff
      • A and B are coindexed,
      • A c-commands B.
    • Governing category ≈ IP or DP.
  • Mary saw herself in the mirror.
  • Mary said John saw herself in the window.
  • John stole [Mary’s pictures of herself].
  • Mary stole [John’s pictures of herself].
binding theory2
Binding Theory
  • Principle BA pronoun (her) must be free (=not bound) within its governing category.
  • Mary saw herin the mirror.
  • Mary said John saw her in the window.
  • John stole [Mary’s pictures of her].
  • Mary stole [John’s pictures of her].
  • Governing category ≈ IP or DP.
binding theory3
Binding Theory
  • Principle BA pronoun (her) must be free (=not bound) within its governing category.
  • A pronoun can be bound
    • Accidentally (by reference)
      • John2 said he2 eats fish.
    • By a quantifier
      • Every boy2 said he2 eats fish.
binding theory4
Binding Theory
  • Principle CA name/r-expression (Mary) must be free (altogether).
  • She saw Maryin the mirror.
  • She said John saw Maryin the window.
  • Mary stole [his pictures of John].
  • He stole [her pictures of John].
  • He said that Mary believes Sue stole my pictures of John.
the trouble with acquiring constraints on meaning
The trouble with acquiring constraints on meaning
  • Every bear is washing her face.
    • Bunch of bears washing Goldilocks’ face.
    • Bunch of bears cleaning their own faces.
  • Every bear is washing her.
    • Bunch of bears washing Goldilocks’ face.
  • Based on what evidence would kids conclude that the second context is not described by the second sentence?
  • In many cases, it might look like the results from Binding Theory are just about order—but for adults, there’s more to it. Binding Theory is abstract, about structure.
    • He said that Mickey won.
    • Mickey said that he won.
    • Before he went to school, Mickey ate a sandwich.
  • No c-command, no problem.
binding theory5
Binding Theory
  • The principles of Binding Theory seem to be universal, represented in all languages.
  • They prohibit certain interpretations (that is, are unlearnable from positive evidence)
  • The principles of Binding Theory are part of Universal Grammar, not learned.
binding theory6
Binding Theory
  • Yet… Experiments seem have shown that sentences ruled out by Binding Theory seem to be accepted by kids.
  • Do kids take a while to learn Binding Theory (even supposing it is learnable)?
  • When do they know it?
c chomsky 1969
C. Chomsky (1969)
  • Tested Principle C with kids and proposed that kids go through three stages:
  • Stage 1.
    • Coreference is unconstrained.
  • Stage 2.
    • Linear order strategy for pronominalization (linear order; antecedent must precede pronoun)
  • Stage 3.
    • Principle C is obeyed.
c chomsky 19691
C. Chomsky (1969)
  • “He found out that Mickey won the race.”
  • “Who found out?”
    • Kid points to someone, maybe Mickey.
  • “After he found out, Mickey left.”
  • “Pluto thinks he knows everything.”
  • Stage 2: Some kids never picked Mickey.
  • Is backward pronominalization disallowed in these kids’ grammars?
linear order strategy
Linear order strategy
  • Do kids go through a stage where they have a strategy for pronouns instead of Binding Theory?
  • Lust (1981): When asked to repeat, kids repeated forward pronominalizations much more accurately than redundant (name…name) sequences or backwards pronominalizations.
linear order strategy1
Linear order strategy
  • But this doesn’t tell us that there aren’t grammatical principles governing their use of pronouns and/or reflexives.
  • If it tells us anything, it only tells us that, of the grammatical options, forward pronominalization is preferred.
preference parameter
“Preference parameter”?
  • Lust in fact elevates this to the status of a parameter: head-final languages prefer backwards pronominalization, head-initial languages prefer forwards pronominalization.
  • Lust claimed there was a difference in preference between English and Japanese; O’Grady failed to replicate the difference between English and Korean.
  • This is not a good parameter anyway. Languages do not differ in what they allow, just in how much they like a type of sentence.
truth value judgment
Truth Value Judgment
  • One way we can get a judgment (and not a preference) is with the truth value judgment task. Another advantage to the TVJ task is that it is not very cognitively taxing.
  • Reminder of the TVJ task:
    • Show the kid a little story.
    • A puppet says “I know what happened… X”.
    • At which point the kid either feeds the puppet a cookie or rag, depending on whether the puppet told the truth.
crain mckee 1985
Crain & McKee (1985)
  • Crain & McKee (1985) tried again with Principle C, this time with a TVJ task, and found nothing particularly non-adult about kids’ use of Principle C. Not 100-0, but definitely systematic.
    • When hei was playing guitar, Pinocchioi was dancing. (73% yes; mean age 4;2)
    • When hei was playing guitar, Pinocchioj was dancing. (81% yes)
    • *Hei washes Goofyi. (88% no)
principle c
Principle C
  • Results about Principle C have been rather all over the map, but probably the appropriate synthesis of what’s out there is:
  • Kids know and obey the constraints of Principle C on their interpretations (from 3 or so).
  • Application of this knowledge in an experimental setting is highly dependent on the demands of the task and the context.
onset of binding theory
Onset of Binding Theory?
  • If Binding Theory is part of UG, not learned, we’d expect that kids start out already knowing it. (or maybe it matures, but let’s hold off on that possibility until we need it)
  • Caveat: Of course, the kids need to know what is a pronoun and what is a reflexive before they can use Binding Theory.
  • However: We expect to find that the first available evidence should show that kids know Binding Theory.
onset of binding theory1
Onset of Binding Theory
  • But it doesn’t seem to turn out as we’d expect…
  • Several experiments seem to show that while kids show early evidence of knowing Principle A/C, they (appear to) consistently fail to observe Principle B—even up to (and beyond) 6 years old.
chien wexler 1990
Chien & Wexler (1990)
  • Explored the question of whether kids know Principles A and B from the outset or not.
  • First three experiments show:
    • Kids correctly require local antecedents for reflexives (Principle A) early on
    • Kids are significantly delayed in requiring non-local antecedents for pronouns (Principle B).
c w90 experiment i
C&W90: Experiment I
  • Tests Principle A (reflexives require a local antecedent) by providing sentences with two possible antecedents (one local, one not). “Simon says” act-out task. (156 kids, mean 4;6)
    • Kitty says that Sarah should point to herself.
    • Kitty says that Sarah should point to her.
    • Kitty says that Adam should point to her.
c w90 experiment ii
C&W90: Experiment II
  • Checking the effects of finiteness and also setting up a gender control on reflexives. (142 kids; mean 4;5)
  • Kitty wants Sarah to point to herself.
  • Kitty wants Sarah to point to her.
  • Kitty wants Adam to point to her
  • Snoopy wants Sarah to point to herself.
c w90 experiment iii
C&W90: Experiment III
  • Increased the number of conditions to test for pragmatic strategies and to replicate the results with a different task. (174 kids; mean 4;5)
    • (Previous task was “Simon [Snoopy/Kitty] says…”, this task was “Party game” which involved giving objects to people/puppets sitting at a table. This might, if anything, introduce a self-bias, because it’s fun to get toys. Kitty says that Sarah should give herself a car.).
c w90 experiments i ii
C&W90: Experiments I-II
  • Kids from 2.5 to 6 showed a steady increase (from about 13% correct to about 90%) in requiring herself to take a local antecedent.
    • G1=2;6-3;0
    • G2=3;0-3;6
    • G8=6;0-6;6
c w90 experiments i ii1
C&W90: Experiments I-II
  • For some reason, kids seemed to perform better with nonfinite verbs (want); C&W have no particular explanation.
c w90 experiments i ii2
C&W90: Experiments I-II
  • Kids showed no significant development in requiring her to take a non-local antecedent (about 75% across the board). Most of the errors treated her as taking a local antecedent.
    • Kitty says that Sarah should point to her.
c w90 experiments i ii3
C&W90: Experiments I-II
  • Gender cues for non-local pronoun brought kids’ performance up to near-perfect. Had little effect on reflexives.
c w90 experiment iii results
C&W90: Experiment III results
  • Previous results replicated for new task.
  • Young kids did better (operated at chance) for Principle A (meaning that they don’t have a systematic non-local coreference principle they are following—cf. Experiment I result showing them at 13% correct). Who knows what it was, but it wasn’t grammar.
c w90 possibilities so far
C&W90: Possibilities so far…
  • Kids have to learn Principle B it takes a while.
    • But how on positive evidence alone?
  • Her is harder to learn than herself.
    • But kids use pronouns first (I saw him sentences indicate that they’re pronouns).
  • Principle B matures (constraints enforcing coreference before those prohibiting coreference?)
    • *UG-constrained maturation
  • “Principle B errors” aren’t Principle B problems.
chien wexler 19901
Chien & Wexler (1990)
  • Kids do know the difference between pronouns and reflexives (they aren’t treating them all as reflexives).
  • E.g., I saw him, *I saw himself.Kids say sentences like I saw him often enough, but they do seem to know that reflexives need a local antecedent.
so what s wrong with principle b
So what’s wrongwith Principle B?
  • Chien & Wexler (1990): Nothing is wrong with Principle B. Kids know and respect Principle B all along.
  • Consider what adults can do:
    • That must be John—or at least he looks an awful lot like him.
  • So do adults violate Principle B?
  • Principle B says that coindexation between a pronoun and an antecedent is prohibited if the antecedent is too close.
  • Assuming adults obey this, that previous sentence must have been:
    • That must be John—or at least heilooks an awful lot like himj.
  • …where i and j are accidentally coreferent.
  • If two noun phrases share the same index, they necessarily share the same referent. Coindexation implies coreference.
  • If two noun phrases do not share the same index, does this mean they can’t share the same referent? Does contraindexation imply non-coreference?
  • The idea behind the Chien & Wexler account of the Principle B “delay” is that adults know the pragmatic Principle P, but kids are unable to use it right away.
  • Principle PContraindexed NPs are non-coreferential unless the context explicitly forces coreference.
  • So, when a kid agrees that…
    • Mama Bear is pointing to her.
  • …meaning ‘Mama Bear is pointing to herself’, what the kid really agreed to was
    • Mama Beari is pointing to herj.
  • …ok by Principle B, but violating Principle P (by allowing i and j both to refer to Mama Bear).
how could we ever tell
How could we ever tell?
  • But how can we tell if it’s Principle P that kids don’t obey and not Principle B, given that they both seem to allow Mama bear is pointing to her ‘…herself’?
  • Answer: Principle B also governs the use of bound pronouns, which Principle P has nothing to say about.
bound pronouns
Bound pronouns
  • A bound pronoun is like his in:
    • Every boyi is looking for hisi keys.
  • …and these are subject to Principle B, but they do not have a fixed referent, so accidental coreference is not an option here.
    • *Every boyi admires himi.
  • So, if found that kids accept
    • Mama bear points to her (her = Mama Bear)
  • …but refused to accept
    • Every beari points to heri. (her = each bear in turn)
  • …then kids know Principle B (and what they lack is probably Principle P).
chien wexler 19902
Chien & Wexler (1990)
  • First three experiments established that Principle B appears to be delayed with respect to Principle A.
  • Fourth experiment establishes that kids obey Principle B when coindexation would be forced by a bound variable interpretation.
c w90 experiment iv
C&W90: Experiment IV
  • Principle B (but not Principle P) applies also to bound pronouns—if the kids know Principle B and not Principle P, we expect to see kids getting bound pronouns right (unlike referring pronouns, as previous three experiments showed).
c w90 experiment iv items
C&W90: Experiment IV items
  • Name-reflexive
    • Is Mama Bear touching herself?
  • Name-pronoun
    • Is Mama Bear touching her?
c w90 experiment iv items1
C&W90: Experiment IV items
  • Quantifier-reflexive
    • Is every bear touching herself?
  • Quantifier-pronoun
    • Is every bear touching her?
c w90 experiment iv controls
C&W90: Experiment IV controls
  • Name-name
    • Is Mama Bear pointing to Goldilocks?
  • Every-name
    • Is every bear pointing to Goldilocks?
  • All-name
    • Are all of the bears pointing to Goldilocks?
c w90 experiment iv control results
C&W90: Experiment IVcontrol results
  • Kids under 5 did poorly on the mismatch (“no”) condition for every and all; they did less poorly on the mismatch condition for names.
  • Kids under 5 haven’t quite mastered quantifiers. (So we can’t test Principle B with them) (with this task)
    • G1=<4(48); G2=4-5(45); G3=5-6(44);G4=6-7(40)
c w90 experiment iv reflexive results
C&W90: Experiment IVreflexive results
  • Kids over 5 did near-perfect with respect to Principle A (name-reflexive and quantifier-reflexive match/mismatch).
c w90 experiment iv name pronoun
C&W90: Experiment IVname-pronoun
  • Kids did badly on the name-pronoun mismatch cases, steadily rising from about 70% wrong to about 25% wrong between 4 and 7.
c w90 experiment iv quantifier pronoun
C&W90: Experiment IVquantifier-pronoun
  • Under 5, kids were operating around chance (they don’t understand how quantifiers work yet)
  • Over 5, they were at 80% correct and above—in particular, better than on the name-pronoun condition; they seem to know Principle B.
    • (G3 went from 50% to 80%)
chien wexler 1990 overall results
Chien & Wexler (1990)overall results
  • By the time kids understand quantifiers like every and all, pronouns, and reflexives, they apply Principle B.
  • Where accidental coreference is possible (despite violating Principle P), kids will allow it about half of the time.
thornton wexler 1999
Thornton & Wexler (1999)
  • What pragmatic knowledge do children lack? Broadly speaking, children appear to have difficulty evaluating other speakers’ intentions… As speakers, children fail to distinguish between their knowledge and that of listeners… [c]hildren use pronouns without first ensuring that a referent has been introduced into the conversational context… As listeners, children appear to assign interpretations to other speakers’ utterances that require special contextual support to be felicitous for adults… (pp. 14-15)
thornton wexler 19991
Thornton & Wexler (1999)
  • Replicated Chien & Wexler (1990) and also tested VP ellipsis cases—another case where a pronoun can be bound (and so Principle B can be unambiguously tested).
  • Papa Bear wiped his faceand Brother Bear did [wiped his face] too.
    • His = Papa Bear’s (strict—coreference)
    • His = Brother Bear’s (sloppy—bound)
  • VP ellipsis is subject to a parallelism constraint (parallelism between the overt and elided material). There are actually two parts to parallelism:
  • NPs in the elided and antecedent VP must
    • Both be bound variables or both be referential pronouns (structural parallelism)
    • If the pronouns are referential, they must have the same referent (referential parallelism).
  • PB wiped his face andBB did [wiped his face] too.
    • his in the first clause is bound by PB. His in second must also be bound by the subject, there BB.
    • His in first clause is referential. It refers to GB. His in second clause must be referential, and must also refer to GB.
  • Kids are expected to obey structural parallelism; grammar (not pragmatics)
truth value judgment task
Truth value judgment task
  • Experimenter 1 tells a story, moves the toys.
  • Experimenter 2 plays a puppet, who has to report what’s just happened.
  • The kid decides, based on whether the puppet told the truth about what happened, to either give the puppet a cookie or make it do pushups. If the puppet gets it wrong, the puppet asks the kid “What really happened?”
  • 19 kids, 4;0 to 5;1
replicating the basic result
Replicating the basic result
  • Bert and 3 reindeer have a snowball fight and get all covered in snow. They go inside, Bert asks the reindeer to brush the snow off of him. 2 reindeer refuse, and commence brushing themselves off; the third helped a little, but mainly concentrates on brushing the snow off himself.
  • Every reindeer brushed him. (No: 92%) √G2
    • WRH? “Only one of them helped him”
  • Every reindeer brushed himself. (Yes: 88%) √G2
    • WRH? Other stuff too.
  • Bert brushed him. (No: 42%) (group 1: No)
    • Brushed hisself? Him? Wiped him? Bert??
testing vp ellipsis
Testing VP ellipsis
  • The caveman kissed the dinosaur and Fozzie Bear did too. (Correct: 100%)
  • IH brushed someone else’s hair, trolls brushed their own hair.
  • The Incredible Hulk brushed his hair and every Troll did too. (Yes[*SP]: 3%) √G2
    • WRH? Only the IH did. (First conjunct consistently controls structural parallelism).
testing vp ellipsis1
Testing VP ellipsis
  • Lizard man and the ugly guy for some reason opt to lift up some other characters. Lizard man lifts the Smurf, ugly guy lifts Mickey.
  • The lizard man lifted him and the ugly guy did too. (No: 79%)
    • 21% overriding referential parallelism? Pragmatic? W&T say “probably”.
    • Same kids as allow MB points to her[=MB]?Well, a subset. Pattern was: every kid who allowed ref. parallelism violations alowed MBpth, but not vice-versa.
testing principle b
Testing Principle B
  • Everyone is covered with glitter, Batman and 2 turtles refuse to help Smurf out because they are cleaning themselves. One turtle briefly helps Smurf, but then returns to cleaning himself.
    • Batman cleaned him and every turtle did too. (No: 86%)
    • Batman cleaned himself and every turtle did too. (Yes: 95%)
  • Kids can accept a sloppy reading when √Pr.B.
testing principle c
Testing Principle C
  • He dusted the skeleton. (No: 92%)
  • The kiwi bird cleaned Flash Gordon and he did too. (No: 54%—adults 83%!)
    • What’s going on? Stress (even implicit due to the ellipsis)? ?
thornton wexler 19992
Thornton & Wexler (1999)
  • Conclusions: Kids seem to know and obey Principle B, Principle C, and structural parallelism.
  • Kids seem to have more trouble with referential parallelism and the contexts for constructions of “guises”.
  • Elbourne (2005). Compare:
  • Every reindeer brushed him.
    • Well, the whole story revolves around Bert and his efforts to get the snow off himself. So, seems like Bert is a pretty good guess.
  • These are the bears; this is Goldilocks. Is every bear touching her?
  • There seems to be aconfound with salience.
grolla 2005 6
Grolla (2005/6)
  • *Goofy brushed him
    • Cf. Goofy brushed himself
  • *This is the elephant that he’s skating
    • Cf. This is the elephant that’s skating
  • John loves his dog
    • Cf. *John loves hisself dog (?)
  • This is the frog [that the swan laughed [when he fell]
    • Cf. *This is the frog [that the swan laughed [when _ fell]
  • The game’s the thing.
    • Chance on 1-2, high acceptance for 3-4. Only chance on: Every spider washed her. (Vs. C&W90 84% reject). Blame: Salience. Cf. Is every dog touching her hat? No: 70%.

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preparatory comments for next week s readings
Preparatory comments for next week’s readings
  • Borer & Wexler (1987): They are out to challenge the idea that kids start off with the entire grammatical system, in favor of a maturational view of syntactic development.
  • Their famous proposal is that children cannot initially construct “A-chains”, and they use evidence primarily from passives.
  • John kicked the ball (active)
  • The ball was kicked (by John) (passive)
  • Standard analysis: the ball starts off as complement of V in both; in the passive, the agent is suppressed and the verb is deprived of its ability to assign Case. Thus, the ball moves into SpecIP to get Case.
  • The balli was kicked ti.
  • The chain between the ball and t created by moving the ball into SpecIP is an A-chain (a chain whose top is in a position where you can only find arguments).
  • There are two kinds of intransitive verbs:
    • Unergative
    • Unaccusative (or sometimes “ergative”)
  • The unergative verbs have an external argument— just like a transitive verb.
  • The unaccusative/ergative verbs have only an internal argument, which moves to subject position—just like in a passive.
unaccusatives passives
Unaccusatives ≈ passives
  • An unaccusative is structurally like a passive:
    • The traini arrived ti.
  • An unergative is not.
    • The baby giggled.
  • So we expect kids to have the same troubles with unaccusatives and passives.
verbal and adjectival passives
Verbal and adjectival passives
  • In English at least, it seems like there are two kinds of words with passive morphology:
  • Verbal:The suspect was seen.
  • Adjectival:His hair seems combed.
  • Borer & Wexler adopt an analysis under which adjectival passives do not involve syntactic movement (lexicon vs. syntax).
verbal and adjectival passives1
Verbal and adjectival passives
  • Generally, non-action verbs make poor adjectival passives (while action verbs are fine):
  • *The suspect seems seen. The seen suspect (fled). Seen though the movie was, John went to see it again.
  • The cloth seems torn. The torn cloth (is useless). Torn though the cloth was, John used it anyway.
  • Conclusion: It should be possible for kids to say passive-like things as long as they’re adjectival passives.
babyonyshev et al 1998
Babyonyshev et al. (1998)
  • Babyonyshev et al. (1998) extend the discussion begun in Borer & Wexler (1987), also arguing for maturation of A-chains.
  • They consider two possible reasons why A-chains in passives would not be allowed:
    • Kids can’t build A-chains.
    • Kids can’t “dethematize” the external argument.
  • The Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis(UTAH) essentially says that the syntactic position in the structure to which any given q-role is assigned does not vary within or across languages.
  • So, the patient q-role is always assigned to the complement of V position, for example.
pesetsky and movement
Pesetsky and movement
  • Languages can differ in whether they perform overt movement (before SS) or covert movement (after SS, headed to LF).
    • Usual example: Wh-movement (Bulgarian: all wh-movements overt; English: one overt wh-movement, the rest covert; Japanese: all wh-movements covert).
pesetsky and movement1
Pesetsky and movement
  • If we assume that all languages move all of their wh-words to (Spec)CP by LF (only some languages save some/all of these movements until after SS), then at LF there is always a chain like:
    • Wh-wordi …ti .
  • One way to think of “covert movement” is as “pronouncing the bottom of the chain” (in a model in which you both interpret and pronounce LF).
pesetsky and movement2
Pesetsky and movement
  • This idea of “pronouncing the bottom of a movement chain” comes up in part of the discussion in Babyonyshev et al. concerning pronunciation in A-chains (like those in unaccusatives and passives) as well as A-bar chains (like wh-movement chains).
babyonyshev et al 19981
Babyonyshev et al. (1998)
  • Babyonyshev et al. conduct an experiment with Russian kids to determine whether kids who cannot represent adult unaccusatives (due to the inability to represent A-chains) instead parse them as unergatives.
  • “S-homophone”: A different syntactic structure (e.g. an unergative) which sounds like another (e.g. an unaccusative).
russian genitive of negation
Russian genitive of negation
  • There is a fairly elaborate discussion of the “genitive of negation” construction in Russian. Basically, a non-specific noun phrase in the same clause as negation will be pronounced with genitive (instead of accusative) case. Some verbs (e.g., existential be) in fact require genitive.
russian genitive of negation1
Russian genitive of negation
  • There is evidence that the genitive argument of an unaccusative remains inside the VP at SS.
  • In English, this argument would raise to subject position (SpecIP).
  • In Russian, it turns out that there is evidence that the genitive argument raises covertly (between SS and LF) to subject position.
evidence for covert movement of the genitive argument
Evidence for covert movement of the genitive argument
  • Negative constituents (e.g., any kind of boy) need to co-occur with negation in the same clause.
  • Where negative constituents participate in A-chains we can see (e.g., raising), the top of the A-chain has to be in the same clause as negation.
  • Genitive negative constituents with raising verbs appear in the lower clause at SS but require negation in the higher clause.
  • Conclusion: Genitive arguments move too, creating an A-chain, and the negation requirement is verified at LF.
babyonyshev et al 19982
Babyonyshev et al. (1998)
  • Testing the idea from Borer & Wexler (1987) that unaccusatives are analyzed as if they are unergatives by kids in the pre-A-chain stage of life.
  • Turns out that Russian provides a nice test of unaccusativity/unergativity with the “genitive of negation” so we can directly check to see how kids are analyzing their intransitives.

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