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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




This study looks at English preschoolers' parallel production and comprehension of definite and indefinite articles in an Optimality Theory framework. Adults associate the with determined reference and a with non-determined reference, and I wanted to investigate how children's grammar deviates from this pattern in terms of comprehension and production of definite and indefinite articles. In testing 19 preschoolers, I find that children have trouble producing a in the target situation and tend to overuse the, consistent with previous literature, but they were considerably better at producing the in the target situation. In comprehension, I found that children have an adult-like interpretation of the as referring to a previously mentioned referent, but their comprehension of a was at chance. I present an OT analysis of the target grammar and show that children's deviation is due to lack of ability to reason bidirectionally as well having unranked constraints.


74 p. Honors project--Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 72-74)