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Empty categories and the acquisition of wh-movement

Ana Teresa Perez-Leroux, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation studies the acquisition of wh-movement and the development of the empty category system in children's grammar. It contains empirical studies on issues on the acquisition of wh-movement in English and Spanish. The following topics are the object of investigation: long distance movement and the role of barriers, structure of relative clauses in child grammar, and the interpretation and production of resumptive elements by children. Child Grammar is hypothesized to contain a default chain composed of a null operator linking a null constant. Null arguments and relative clause and question formation in early grammars are argued to be derived from this default chain. The evidence considered in this dissertation supports the view that null constants and not null pronouns are the primitive empty category in child grammar. In the initial stage, before clausal nodes are projected, and subordination is acquired, the chain is derived by short movement with adjunction to the maximal projection. Once a full syntactic tree develops, the null operator-null constant chain is eventually replaced by a set of fully developed A-bar dependencies. The acquisition process is hypothesized to be dependent on changes on the phrase structure representation and the acquisition of syntactic features of the nominal system: $\pm$anaphoric, $\pm$pronominal and $\pm$variable.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Perez-Leroux, Ana Teresa, "Empty categories and the acquisition of wh-movement" (1993). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9408328.