On how to link child functional omissions to upwards reanalysis

Ailís Cournane


Syntactic change research regularly appeals to the child innovator to explain upward reanalysis (V > v > infl; e.g., Roberts & Roussou, 2003; van Gelderen, 2004). In child language, the most pervasive type of syntactic input-divergence, or “error”, is the omission of functional morphemes (e.g., Brown, 1973; Snyder, 2007). Following Pannemann (2007), I argue that children learn language specific syntactic structures by assuming a Maximal Category First approach. Under this analysis, omission-laden child strings represent conservative interim structural analyses (rather than input-consistent analyses with unpronounced elements). When the child fails to revise her interim analysis to the input target, the resultant analysis will be upwards in nature (min>max), as predicted by the child innovator approach. This paper uses a corpus study of modal verbs (Cournane, 2015) to show that child functional omissions provide evidence for reanalyses up the verbal projection.


Functional Omissions; Modal Verbs; Upwards Reanalysis; INFL

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