Copula Omission in early Child French

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Linus Hahner


In language acquisition research, the omission of the copula verb as a case of functional element dropping has repeatedly been attested in Western European languages, but not often thoroughly analyzed. This study investigates the omission of the French copula être in monolingual L1-acquisition by integrating three different viewpoints: first, the Truncation Hypothesis advanced by Luigi Rizzi in order to account for Root-Infinitive clauses is adopted as a model for the syntactic structure of Copula Omissions. Second, the reported syntactic and semantic restrictions regulating Copula Omission, notably the copula predicate’s semantic type, are discussed in the light of Claudia Maienborn’s study on the copula’s logic form. It is argued that the frequently cited distinction between stage-level and individual-level predicates is in fact based pragmatically rather than semantically or syntactically. Lastly, the productive use of Left and Right Dislocation in spoken French is analyzed regarding its repercussions on the French information structure, pragmatical discourse considerations, as well as its prosody. It is proposed that dislocation contexts favor French Copula Omission in child speech because of their impact on the salience of fragmentary utterances. This hypothesis is tested in comparison to the correlation with predicate type by analyzing the CHILDES recordings of three monolingual French children. The results show that French Copula Omission correlates with dislocation as well as with predicate type in a significant way. This confirms that children exploit pragmatical economy considerations when producing fragmentary structures, which may explain why child speech omissions often prove optional.    

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Hahner, L. (2020). Copula Omission in early Child French. Mannheim Papers in Multilingualism, Acquisition and Change, 2, 1–80.
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