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«1. Introduction This paper is an attempt to investigate experimentally the nature of the acquisition of the resultative construction in Japanese, and ...»

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Resultatives Result from the

Compounding Parameter:

On the Acquisitional Correlation

between Resultatives and N-N

Compounds in Japanese

*

Koji Sugisaki and Miwa Isobe

University of Connecticut and Keio University

1. Introduction

This paper is an attempt to investigate experimentally the nature of the

acquisition of the resultative construction in Japanese, and to provide

support for the theory of Compounding Parameter proposed by Snyder

(1995b), and more generally, for the parameter-setting model of grammar acquisition.

Since the introduction of the so-called Principles and Parameters approach to Universal Grammar (e.g. Chomsky 1981, Chomsky and Lasnik 1993), there have been two major research trends in the field of grammar acquisition studies. One line of research, which has been pursued by Stephen Crain, Yukio Otsu and many others, is to motivate the ‘principles of UG’ by showing that the principles of UG constrain the course of grammar acquisition from virtually the very beginning of life (see Crain 1991, Otsu 1981, among others). For example, in Otsu (1981), the innateness of the Subjacency constraint and Binding conditions was supported by showing that children obey those constraints as soon as they acquire relevant lexical items and structures. The other line of research, which was initiated by Nina Hyams (Hyams 1986), is to motivate the existence of ‘parameters’ by making use of children’s production of non- adult forms. In Hyams (1986), the so-called null subject phenomenon in the early speech of English-speaking children was analyzed, and it was claimed * We would like to thank William Snyder for his help at every stage of the research. We are also grateful to Sigrid Beck, Cedric Boeckx, Giyoo Hatano, Kazuko Hiramatsu, Hisatsugu Kitahara, Nobuhiro Miyoshi, Diane Lillo-Martin, Yukio Otsu, Yael Sharvit, and the audience at WCCFL 19 for valuable comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimers apply. This research was supported in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health Grant DCD-00183.

©2000 Koji Sugisaki and Miwa Isobe. WCCFL 19 Proceedings, ed. Billerey and Lillehaugen, pp. 493-506. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

494 WCCFL 19 that there is a parameter that divides languages into null subject languages like Italian and non-null-subject languages like English, and that the grammar of the English-speaking children who produce null-subject sentences is just like that of Italian-speaking children with respect to the relevant parameter-setting. While this theory of Hyams had to undergo many revisions, the importance of the research style that she has developed still remains unchanged.

One recent work that falls in this second line of research, namely research that motivates parameters with children’s data, is a series of studies by William Snyder (Snyder 1995a, b, 1996, 1999, Snyder and Chen 1997, Snyder and Stromswold 1997). In the next section, we will summarize theempirical basis for his theory of the Compounding Parameter, and clarify the question that we address experimentally in the following sections.

2. The Compounding Parameter

2.1. Establishing the Compounding Parameter English allows several constructions in which the main verb combines with a secondary predicate and forms a “complex predicate” that semantically resembles a simple verb. The following list of examples is

from Snyder (1999: 2):

–  –  –

The typical examples are the resultative as in (1a), in which the main verb combines with an adjective phrase (paint red), and the verb-particle construction as in (1b), in which the main verb combines with the particle (pick up).

The first step to the discovery of the Compounding Parameter was made in Stromswold and Snyder (1995) and Snyder and Stromswold (1997). In these studies, Snyder and Stromswold have examined in detail the spontaneous speech data of 12 English-speaking children available in CHILDES (MacWhinney and Snow 1985, 1990). The major result obtained through this investigation, supported by a variety of statistical analyses, was that every child acquired the sentence-types in (1b-g) as a group. Based on this result from child language acquisition, Snyder and Stromswold have Sugisaki and Isobe 495 claimed that the constructions in (1b-g) stem from a common cause, namely from a single, parametric property of a grammar.

As a second step, Snyder (1995b, 1999) has examined whether the availability of the constructions in (1) is connected to some morphological property of a language, in order to test the claim made in several places of syntactic literature that parametric properties can be reduced to the properties of functional heads (e.g. Borer 1984, Fukui 1986, Chomsky 1993). A detailed cross-linguistic survey has led to a surprising finding: The availability of complex predicates (as diagnosed by resultatives of the English type) has shown a strong correlation with the availability of productive root compounding (as diagnosed by the grammaticality of novel N-N compounds, like banana box, worm can). The following table from

Snyder (1999:5-6) presents the results of the cross-linguistic survey:

–  –  –

Given this strong cross-linguistic correlation, the next step that Snyder has taken is to investigate the acquisitional correlation between productive N-N compounding and the various complex predicate constructions in (1).





The results obtained through the examination of spontaneous speech data of 10 English-speaking children available in CHILDES were as follows: Ages of first clear use of a novel N-N compound have shown an exceptionally strong correlation with the ages of acquisition for verb-particle constructions (1b), and were also robustly correlated with the ages of 496 WCCFL 19 acquisition for causative-perceptual constructions (1c,d), put-locatives (1e), to-datives (1f), and double object datives (1g). Thus, the acquisition data have also provided evidence for the strong association between complex predicates and morphological compounds.

Given such converging evidence from cross-linguistic variation and child language acquisition, Snyder (1999:4) has proposed that UG is

equipped with what he calls the Compounding Parameter :

(3) Compounding Parameter:

The grammar {disallows*, allows} formation of endocentric compounds during the syntactic derivation. [*unmarked value] The idea behind the Compounding Parameter is that in complex predicate constructions, the main verb and the secondary predicate constitute a single word (namely, an endocentric compound) at the point of semantic interpretation, and the operation necessary to form this is the same as the one required to produce N-N compounds. 1 This way, the parameter determines both the availability of productive, endocentric compounding and the availability of syntactic complex predicate constructions. Snyder (1995b, 1999) further argues that this parameter cannot be reduced to the properties of functional heads or closed class lexical items, given that no such closed-class item has been independently motivated in root compounds. Thus, this parameter constitutes one of the few pieces of evidence for a substantive parameter in the sense of Chomsky (1981: 6).

2.2. A Remaining Issue: Acquisition of Resultatives

We have seen that English-speaking children acquire the complex predicate constructions (1b-g) as a group. We have also seen that the acquisition of this group of constructions correlates with the acquisition of novel N-N compounds. Furthermore, we have observed cross-linguistically that the availability of resultatives shows a strong correlation with the availability of productive N-N compounds. However, we can easily see that there is a mysterious gap: Even though resultatives are claimed to be part of the Compounding Parameter, neither English-speaking children nor the Japanese-speaking child available in CHILDES (Miyoshi 1999) ever reliably use this construction in their speech. If resultatives stem from the Compounding Parameter, why are resultatives lacking in children’s speech while other complex predicates are frequently observed?

There are at least three possible explanations for the lack of resultatives in children’s spontaneous speech. The first possibility is that resultatives,

1. For a more detailed discussion of this point, see Snyder (1995a, b).

Sugisaki and Isobe 497 even though they have shown strong cross-linguistic correlation with N-N compounding, do not stem from the Compounding Parameter: The crosslinguistic correlation is merely accidental. The second possibility is that even though resultatives stem from the Compounding Parameter, there is some grammatical reason that specifically delays the acquisition of that construction. The third possibility is that even though resultatives are available to children as well as other complex predicates, there is some extra-grammatical factor that prevents children from producing that construction. This third possibility would be the one Snyder has in mind; he notes that “The resultative construction (1a) unfortunately had to be excluded from the spontaneous-speech analysis, because of its extremely

low frequency in the speech of both children and adults” (Snyder 1999:

fn.4). However, given the limitation of the corpus study, we still do not know which of the three possibilities noted above is the correct explanation.

The present study is an attempt to overcome the limitation of the corpus study by conducting an experiment, and to investigate further the nature of the Compounding Parameter. Specifically, we will try to tease apart the possible explanations noted above by testing the following

prediction from the Compounding Parameter:

(4) The possibility of resultatives emerges in the child’s grammar as soon as s/he acquires the knowledge of productive N-N compounding.

If the results of the experiment have shown that this prediction is borne out, then we can say that the third possibility is the correct one; namely, we will obtain direct evidence for the view that resultatives are really part of the Compounding Parameter. Thus, the experiment that we will report shortly is an attempt to show acquisitionally that resultatives stem from the Compounding Parameter by verifying the validity of the prediction given in (4).

3. Logic of the Experiment If we assume that Snyder’s theory, summarized in (5), is on the right

track, then we will have the acquisitional predictions given in (6) and (7):

(5) Productive N-N compounding and the complex predicate constructions (including resultatives) stem from the Compounding Parameter.

(6) Those children who are capable of producing novel N-N compounds are also capable of interpreting resultative constructions correctly.

(7) Those children who are not capable of producing novel N-N compounds are also not capable of interpreting resultative constructions correctly.

498 WCCFL 19 The experiment that we will report in the next section is based on (5) - (7).

One way of investigating whether children can correctly comprehend resultatives would be to check whether they can distinguish resultatives as in (8) from the corresponding sentences with the attributive adjectives as in (9)2 :

(8) a. John is painting the house red.

b. Mary is cutting the paper square.

(9) a. John is painting the red house.

b. Mary is cutting the square paper.

An advantage of testing Japanese-speaking children is that while in English, the order between the noun and the adjective has to be reversed to create resultatives from sentences with attributive adjectives, in Japanese, we can make minimal pairs as in (8) and (9) without any word order

differences. Let us consider the following Japanese examples:

(10) John-ga ie-o aka-ku nutteiru.

John-NOM house-ACC red painting ‘John is painting the house red.’ (11) John-ga aka-i ie-o nutteiru.

John-NOM red house-ACC painting ‘John is painting the red house.’ As in English, the unmarked word order of resultatives in Japanese is different from the word order of sentences with attributive adjectives.

However, Japanese has the operation of scrambling (e.g. Saito 1985), which induces the property of relatively free word order. If we apply scrambling to the adjectival phrase in the resultative (10) and move the AP to the prenominal position, we can create resultatives which have the same word

order as the sentence in (11):

(12) Resultatives with short AP scrambling:

John-ga [AP aka-ku]i ie-o ti nutteiru.

John-NOM red house-ACC painting ‘John is painting the house red.’ As we can see, there is no word order difference between the resultative in (12) and the sentence with a prenominal adjective in (11): Both examples contain the order NP-AP-NP-V.

The only difference between them is the inflectional ending of the adjectives:

-ku in the case of resultatives, and -i in

2. We thank Yukio Otsu for the relevant suggestion.

Sugisaki and Isobe 499 the case of attributive adjectives. If it is found that children can correctly distinguish between resultatives and sentences with prenominal adjectives by making use of the subtle distinction provided by the inflectional endings (and without the help of the word order difference illustrated in (10) and (11)), then this would be a strong indication that young children have the ability to comprehend resultative constructions. 3 Thus, the availability of scrambling in Japanese, we believe, is of great help to investigate children’s abilities to interpret resultatives. 4 In our experiment on resultatives, we will crucially make use of the pair (11) and (12). However, in order to do so, we should have some evidence for the early acquisition of scrambling in Japanese. The experimental study by Otsu (1994) provides the relevant data. He has convincingly shown that even three-year-olds acquiring Japanese can correctly comprehend scrambled sentences, if the appropriate discourse situation is given. Thus, we assume that the use of sentences with scrambling would pose no extra difficulty for children’s comprehension.

4. The Experiment



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