By Barbara Wedemeyer Edmonson
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Additional info for A descriptive grammar of Huastec (Potosino dialect)
B. 5 Finally, Schafer & de Villiers (2000) found a similar response with Smith College students. When contrastive sets were present, a definite was chosen for a member of a set: (36) Three ducks and two dogs were walking across a bridge. One of the animals fell off the bridge and said Quack. Guess which or what was it? 50 TOM ROEPER While 70% gave a duck as an answer 30% said the duck. This suggests that this may remain as a residual grammatical option in adult English as well. By contrast, we do not believe that the Unique Referent option would constitute a stage of acquisition in an Asian language without articles.
Of course in such examples -que is not in any ‘wrong’ place — to put it elsewhere would be wrong — because the grammar says it is to be put where it is. But from a compositional semantic point of view, one needs to do some rearranging that one does not need to do with Latin et, English and, and German und. This particular example is not simply an idle little curiosity to note and tuck away. The position of -que is of course a Wackernagel position phenomenon — a ‘second position’ phenomenon — a syntacticmorphological position so common it has a name (Anderson, 1993).
In the second place one must also localize the error: If one hears That actor is a ham and notes that the utterance is wrong in context for the ‘smoked meat’ sense of ham, why not conclude the error is due to actor, that, is, or a? Or perhaps it is a scope ambiguity, a topic/focus distinction? , for a recent overview see Siskind, 2000). The chief focus, to this point, has been on the learning of ambiguous lexical items (nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions). But understanding an utterance of a sentence or discourse involves, of course, much more than just understanding the meanings of lexical items, and resolving their ambiguities in context.