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Little Words

Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

Publication Year: 2009

Little Words is an interdisciplinary examination of the functions and change in the use of clitics, pronouns, determiners, conjunctions, discourse particles, auxiliary/light verbs, prepositions, and other ôlittle wordsö that have played a central role in linguistic theory and in language acquisition research. Leading scholars present advanced research in phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse function, historical development, variation, and acquisition by children and adults. This unique volume integrates the views and findings of these different research areas into one professional source to be used within and across disciplines. Languages studied include English, Spanish, French, Romanian, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Slavonic, and Medieval Leonese.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. v-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

The Georgetown University Round Table of Languages and Linguistics (GURT) is an annual conference with a long-standing tradition—Georgetown University has hosted GURT since 1949. The conference began as a gathering for discussion of issues in all fields of language studies; over time it has developed into a nationally and internationally known...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

...such as clitics, pronouns, determiners, conjunctions, discourse particles, auxiliary/light verbs, prepositions, and so on—have been the focus of investigation in many research areas that include phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse function, historical development, variation, and acquisition. The unique...


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Chapter 2. From "Two" to "Both": Historical Changes in the Syntax and Meaning of Oba in Slavic

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pp. 9-20

...that Old Church Slavonic (OCS) oba, the historical counterpart of the modern Slavic “both,” meant simply “two.” We propose an account of the syntactic reanalysis of oba and the accompanying change in its meaning and discuss the broader implications of our findings...

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Chapter 3. When Small Words Collide: Morphological Reduction and Phonological Compensation in Old Leonese Contractions

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pp. 21-34

...of the grammaticalization of lexical words into function words has received much attention in various fields of linguistics (Hopper and Traugott 1993, among numerous works). While grammaticalization usually results in the phonological reduction of the words in question, this reduction does not usually lead to the loss of semantic recoverability. However...


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Chapter 4. Distinguishing Function Words from Content Words in Children's Oral Reading

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pp. 37-46

...they enter first grade, children acquiring language in a home where English is spoken typically show the English prosodic pattern in which content words receive stress but function words do not. However, when some of these children read text aloud, it is perceived as choppy, awkward, and word-by-word, without meaningful phrasal groupings and lacking...

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Chapter 5. Motivating Floating Quantifiers

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pp. 47-58

...information structure and prosody on the one hand, and the placement of “little words” on the other, is being explored in many languages in relationship to many different linguistic phenomena. In this chapter floating quantifiers (FQs) are shown to be a prime example of...


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Chapter 6. Applicative Phrases Hosting Accusative Clitics

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pp. 61-74

...I offer an explanation for the puzzling behavior exhibited in certain environments by a particular class of standard Spanish “little words”: accusative pronominal clitics. Those environments derive from the presence of a special sort of Spanish verbs that I will call “ayudar-verbs”; they are...

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Chapter 7. The Little DE of Degree Constructions

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pp. 75-86

...one function of the Romanian “little word” de. I claim that it serves as a morphosyntactic exponent in degree constructions. The first two sections illustrate problematic outcomes for a standard (universal) representation of degree constructions employing diagnostics used, for example, in Beck, Oda, and Sugisaki (2004). The next two sections discuss...

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Chapter 8. The Complementizer The

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pp. 87-98

comparative correlatives [in (1) and (2)] and the “little word” the that obligatorily begins both phrases/clauses. The syntactic structure of such expressions is far from apparent. (1) The more a student studies, the better grades she will receive (2) The longer the storm lasts, the worse the damage is A comparative correlative looks like two...

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Chapter 9. What Is There When Little Words Are Not There ?: Possible Implications for Evolutionary Studies

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pp. 99-108

...is to provide a theoretical argument, using the tools of the syntactic framework of minimalism (e.g., Chomsky 1995), that certain small clauses (syntactic objects with no or few “little words”), which can be found in root contexts as well as in other unexpected uses, may represent “living fossils” from a root smallclause stage in language evolution...

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Chapter 10. Spanish Personal a and the Antidative

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pp. 109-118

...to have flexible word order. This flexibility extends to the relative placement of verbal complements in ditransitive clauses. A theme may precede a goal, appearing immediately to the right of the verb, as in (1a), or it may follow the goal, as in (1b). There is, however...


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Chapter 11. Predicting Argument Realization from Oblique Marker Semantics

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pp. 121-130

...the role of adpositions and oblique cases (which I group under a single category P, excluding structural cases and their adpositional equivalents) in determining argument realization patterns across languages. Consider the Japanese data in (1) and their English translations, where English clearand Japanese katazukeru, “clear,” both take agent, theme...

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Chapter 12. Aspect Selectors, Scales, and Contextual Operators: An Analysis of by Temporal Adjuncts

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pp. 131-142

...select for specific aspectual classes; these adjuncts include measure adverbials such as for an hour and interval adverbials such as in an hour. While such adjuncts have traditionally served as diagnostics of telicity, it is only relatively recently that aspectual theorists have elucidated the relationship between the scalarsemantic meanings of these adjuncts and the...

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Chapter 13. Distributive Effects of the Plural Marker –tul in Korean

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pp. 143-156

in Korean has drawn much attention in the literature because of its puzzling distributions. First, the particle basically attaches to a noun, as in (1), whose role is similar to the English plural suffix –s in that it indicates the plural entities denoted by that noun1...


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Chapter 14. The Pragmatics of the French Discourse Markers donc and alors

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pp. 159-170

...relies heavily on a vast array of discourse markers, small words that help speakers in situating discourse at the referential, structural, interpersonal, and cognitive levels (Maschler 1998) and illustrating the import of pragmatics in interactions. This study focuses on the two French discourse markers donc and alors (both equivalent to the English so in some contexts...

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Chapter 15. "Little Words" in Small Talk: Some Considerations on the Use of the Pragmatic Markers man in English and macho/tío in Peninsular Spanish

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pp. 171-182

are linguistic forms that are very common and frequent in spontaneous conversation, and, as Carranza (1997) points out, they can signal not only some kind of attitude on the part of the speakers toward their interlocutor(s) but also the limits and relationships between different parts of the text or discourse. In this chapter I present, discuss...

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Chapter 16. Little Words That Could Impact One's Impression on Others: Greetings and Closings in Institutional E-mails

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pp. 183-196

...much of the interaction between students and professors occurs face-to-face—in class meetings and during office hours. Computer technology has, however, opened other communication venues in academia for which rules of interaction are less clearly defined, such as electronic mailing lists, discussion boards, chats, and electronic mail. While the...


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Chapter 17. Instructed L2 Acquisition of Differential Object Marking in Spanish

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pp. 199-210

...that second language (L2) learners restructure their interlanguage grammars on the basis of input. But what form must input take to promote restructuring? Many studies find that input in the form of positive evidence is not sufficient for successful second language acquisition (SLA) and that some focus on language form is necessary to lead the learner to notice certain features of the input. That is, instructed L2 learners may benefit...

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Chapter 18. The Role of Pedagogical Tasks and Focus on Form in Acquisition of Discourse Markers by Advanced Language Learners

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pp. 211-222

...has pointed to the inherent difficulty in reaching an advanced level of proficiency in a language in a classroom environment (see Byrnes and Maxim 2003; Byrnes, Weger-Guntharp, and Sprang 2006). One of the characteristics that defines advanced proficiency in a second/foreign language (L2) is the ability to produce speech/text at the discourse level...

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Chapter 19. Article Acquisition in English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish

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pp. 223-236

...is a well-documented phenomenon in early child speech. Interestingly, children differ in terms of how extensively they omit articles depending on their age and what language(s) they are exposed to. Different accounts have been proposed to account for this cross-linguistic variation. One of the most widely discussed models is the nominal mapping parameter...

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Chapter 20. A Continuum in French Children's Surface Realization of Auxiliaries

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pp. 237-246

...of research in child language has been the acquisition of functional elements such as determiners and auxiliaries (see, e.g., Lust 2006, chap. 9, for a recent review). Early studies proposed that child speech is “telegraphic,” that is, it consists mostly of content words such as verbs and nouns, which are essential to communication, while usually lacking function...

E-ISBN-13: 9781589015968
E-ISBN-10: 1589015967
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589012547
Print-ISBN-10: 1589012542

Page Count: 258
Publication Year: 2009