The Role of Pronouns in Young Children’s Acquisition of the English Transitive Construction
Two studies investigating the linguistic representations underlying English-speaking 2 1/2-year-olds' production of transitive utterances are reported. The first study was a training study in which half the children heard utterances with full nouns as agent and patient, and half the children heard utterances with both pronouns (i.e., He's [verb]-ing it) and also full nouns. In subsequent testing, only children who had been trained with pronouns and nouns were able to produce a transitive utterance creatively with a nonce verb. The second study reported an analogous set of findings, but in comprehension. Together, the results of these 2 studies suggest that English-speaking children build many of their early linguistic constructions around certain specific lexical or morphological items and patterns, perhaps especially around particular pronoun configurations.
American Psychological Association
Childers, J. B. & Tomasello, M. (2001). The role of pronouns in young children’s acquisition of the English transitive construction. Developmental Psychology, 37(6), 739-48. doi: 10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.529