C-Command in Discourse: Syntactic Principles Beyond the Sentence and Their Consequences for Acquisition Theory

  • Tom RoeperEmail author
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 48)


We ask these questions: Where are parsing principles applied? Could they extend beyond sentences to Discourse? Modern proposals have proposed that Discourse structure can entail typical c-command relations. This in turn allows binding between quantifiers and pronouns. We argue that if children make the strongest, most falsifiable hypotheses first, they should seek to continue to parse input in terms of previously recognized sentence structure, linked by narrative structure as Keshet proposes for sequences like: Every candidate walked to the Dean. He took his diploma and sat down where every candidate = he. Data from the DELV test indicates that children will also allow quantifiers to be co-indexed with pronouns in separate sentences, contrary to the usual assumption that quantifier-scope is sentence bound, but consistent with Keshet’s Discourse structure. For instance, in the sequence: The man saw every boy. He played the piano, many children allow this connection. We argue that it can be seen as a natural step under a constrained notion of learnability that seeks the Strictest Interfaces possible. The CP may be the point of contact with Discourse. Early arguments that children adjoin new information to the Root in an unLabeled form can be extended to mean: attach new information to the Discourse with the same domination relations that allow c-command and binding.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Massachsetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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