L’acquisition des Catégories Fonctionnelles : Étude comparative du développement du DP français chez des enfants et des apprenants adultes

Detta är en avhandling från Department of Romance Languages

Sammanfattning: This thesis deals with the development of the DP (the Determiner Phrase) in bilingual first (2L1) and in adult second (L2) language acquisition of French. The thesis shows that the children and the adult Swedish learners acquire syntactic categories differently: the children follow a structural economy principle in positing as small categories as possible (Rizzi, 1998). The adult learners aim to establish as few different categories as possible, which leads them to larger syntactic categories. Both principles are claimed to be part of the Universal Grammar (UG). The empirical part contains three interrelated analyses. The first analysis deals with the omissions of determiners and investigates the status of early Functional Categories (FCs). The children and the adults differ with respect to the underlying grammar of DPs at the initial state: only the children go through a stage where determiners are generally absent and only in the children is there a correlation between suppliance of determiners and linguistic development. The results speak against theories in L2 where an initial absence of FCs is postulated. Moreover, we find only a weak correlation between the omission of determiners, Null Subjects and Root infinitives in 2L1. The independent development of DP and CP is compatible with a structural economy approach to omissions but seems to speak against underspecification accounts that predict a parallel development of DP and CP. The second analysis deals with the syntactic status of the definite article, a clitic head (X0). Data from elision and incorporation are used for the analysis. Following our main hypotheses, the syntactic “lightness” of the clitic definite article predicts different acquisition patterns in 2L1 and L2. This is borne out in the data. The children have few problems with elision and incorporation (au/du ventre) whereas the adult learners of the lowest level of development nearly never elide or incorporate with prepositions (but produce 'à le/de le bar). The children rapidly perceive the grammaticalised nature of the definite article whereas the adult learners begin with a more “lexical” definite article that is subsequently grammaticalised. We argue that the children soon analyse the definite article as a head under D0 whereas the adult learners first treat the article as an inherently [+definite] XP-element in Spec-DP. The third analysis shows that the features “number” and “gender” are acquired differently: Number is accessible from an early stage whereas gender is absent at the initial state in both groups. We argue that the development of gender in 2L1 is a consequence of the clitic status of the article in combination with morphophonology of the noun. In contrast, the adult learners first use a default gender form of the article. The L2 development is lexical and item based. In conclusion, the main results are accounted for if we assume that 2L1 and adult L2 acquisition are guided by the two different principles of UG mentioned. This difference has consequences for the three domains studied, the structure of DP, the status of definite articles and possibly also for the development of gender.