Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Elena Gavruseva

First Committee Member

Roumyana Slabakova

Second Committee Member

William D Davies

Third Committee Member

Alice Davison

Fourth Committee Member

Jason Rothman


The goal of the following project is to probe into the early knowledge of the syntactic and the pragmatic components of language at the syntax-pragmatics interface, as exemplified by discourse-related elements such as object clitics. Object clitics, in addition to allowing for cross-linguistic generalizations, provide an insight into the early clause structure and the mechanisms which constrain the syntax-pragmatics interface. Cross linguistic variation has been found to be limited and well-governed, and has been attributed to the underlying syntactic mechanism, such as the Unique Checking Constrain or a number of pragmatic constraints operative in the child's grammar such as inability to mark referentiality. In addition, this study explores a theory which attempts to integrate the acquisition of syntax and pragmatics by attributing early non-finite structures in child grammar to a maturational discourse linking mechanism. The present project seeks to validate the claims of the above theories by offering new data and a novel perspective.

The empirical part presents the results of one pilot study based on naturalistic language production by a monolingual Polish child age 2;1 - 2;9, and three data elicitation experiments conducted with 53 monolingual Polish children age 2;9 - 5;10. the clitic production experiment composed of two types of data. The pilot study establishes the relative age of clitic production. The data elicitation experiments focus on clitic production, clitic comprehension and knowledge of Principle B, as well as clitic referentiality resolution in pragmatically infelicitous contexts.

It is shown that Polish children do not produce clitics from the beginning. It is concluded based on group and individual results that comprehension of objects clitic precedes production and that production is unlikely without comprehension. It is shown that age is a significant factor in clitic comprehension, production and referentiality resolution. It is demonstrated that Polish children exhibit early knowledge of Principle B. Also, it is suggested that children who produce object clitics are more likely to resolve clitic referentiality in pragmatically infelicitous contexts.


acquisition, child language, clitics, interface, Polish


ix, 127 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-127).


Copyright 2009 Marta Maria Tryzna

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Linguistics Commons