Janke, V. (2018). Who is the agent? The influence of pragmatic leads on children’s reference assignment in non-obligatory control. Journal of Child Language [Online] 45:442-478. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305000917000320.
Non-obligatory control constructions (NOC) are sentences which contain a non-finite clause with a null subject whose reference is determined pragmatically. Little is known about how children assign reference to these subjects yet this is important as our current understanding of reference-resolution development is limited to less complex sentences with overt elements, such as pronouns. This study explores how 76 children (aged 6 to 11) consult pragmatic leads when assigning reference in two examples of NOC. Children undertook three picture-selection tasks, containing no lead, a weak lead and a strong lead, and their reference choices in the critical sentences were monitored. The novel results pinpoint children’s baseline interpretations of the ambiguous sentences and expose an age trend in the degree to which they consult strong pragmatic leads when resolving reference. These trends illustrate how reference assignment in more complex discourse-governed contexts progresses, thereby contributing an important dimension to the pragmatics acquisition literature.
Janke, V. (2018). Discourse effects on older children’s interpretations of complement control and temporal adjunct control. Language Acquisition [Online] 25:366-391. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10489223.2017.1359271.
The reference of understood subjects (ecs) in complement control (John persuaded Peteri eci to read the book) and temporal adjunct control (Johni tapped Peter while eci reading the book) has long been described as restricted to the object and subject of the main clause respectively. These restrictions have shaped the grammatical targets proposed for children, most of whom are reported as having acquired both sub-types by seven. Using three picture-selection tasks, 76 children’s (34 girls; aged 6;9-11;8) interpretations of the ecs were tested. Task 1 established their base-line preferences. Task 2 weakly cued the ecs towards an alternative referent and Task 3 strongly towards an alternative referent. Complement control responses were consistent across all tasks but in adjunct control they shifted significantly towards the object in Task 3 – a pattern mirrored by 15 adults. Responses in adjunct control also exhibited a degree of fluctuation in the baseline condition that complement control did not. A follow-up study on adjunct control showed that neither children nor adults permitted an external-referent reading, even when strongly cued in that direction. Two alternative proposals are discussed: one in which the results are viewed solely as the product of a parser’s sensitivity to activation and another that proposes two possible structures for adjunct control; this permits the evident interpretation shift yet gives precedence to the highly preferred subject-oriented reading.
Janke, V. and Marshall, C. (2017). Using the hands to represent objects in space: Gesture as a substrate for signed language acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology [Online] 8. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02007.
An ongoing issue of interest in second language research concerns what transfers from a speaker’s first language to their second. For learners of a sign language, gesture is a potential substrate for transfer. Our study provides a novel test of gestural production by eliciting silent gesture from novices in a controlled environment. We focus on spatial relationships, which in sign languages are represented in a very iconic way using the hands, and which one might therefore predict to be easy for adult learners to acquire. However, a previous study by Marshall and Morgan (2015) revealed that this was only partly the case: in a task that required them to express the relative locations of objects, hearing adult learners of British Sign Language (BSL) could represent objects’ locations and orientations correctly, but had difficulty selecting the correct handshapes to represent the objects themselves. If hearing adults are indeed drawing upon their gestural resources when learning sign languages, then their difficulties may have stemmed from their having in manual gesture only a limited repertoire of handshapes to draw upon, or, alternatively, from having too broad a repertoire. If the first hypothesis is correct, the challenge for learners is to extend their handshape repertoire, but if the second is correct, the challenge is instead to narrow down to the handshapes appropriate for that particular sign language. 30 sign-naïve hearing adults were tested on Marshall and Morgan’s task. All used some handshapes that were different from those used by native BSL signers and learners, and the set of handshapes used by the group as a whole was larger than that employed by native signers and learners. Our findings suggest that a key challenge then when learning to express locative relations might be reducing from a very large set of gestural resources, rather than supplementing a restricted one, in order to converge on the conventionalised classifier system that forms part of the grammar of the language being learned.
Janke, V. and Bailey, L. (2017). Effects of Discourse on Control. Journal of Linguistics [Online] 53:533-565. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022226716000281.
This study examined discourse effects on obligatory and non-obligatory control interpretations. 70 participants undertook three online forced-choice surveys, which monitored preferred interpretations in complement control, verbal-gerund-subject control, long-distance control and final temporal adjunct control. Survey 1 ascertained their baseline interpretations of the empty category in these constructions. Survey 2 cued the critical sentences used in survey 1 with a weakly established topic of discourse and survey 3 cued them with a strongly established one. Reference assignment in complement control remained consistent across all three conditions, illustrating that pragmatics does not infiltrate this structurally regulated and syntactically unambiguous construction. Changes in interpretation were found in the remaining three constructions. An accessibility-motivated scale of influence, combining three independent discourse factors (topic, linear distance and competition) is created to model reference determination in verbal-gerund-subject control and long-distance control. The results for temporal adjunct control are novel. They revealed a much stronger susceptibility to pragmatic interference than that reported in the literature yet the construction behaved differently from non-obligatory control under discourse pressure. We propose a structural account for final temporal adjunct control, which permits the evident interpretation shift, whilst still excluding arbitrary and sentence-external interpretations.
Janke, V. and Perovic, A. (2017). Contrasting complement control, temporal adjunct control and controlled verbal gerund subjects in autism spectrum disorder: The role of contextual cues in reference assignment. Frontiers in Psychology [Online] 8:448. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00448.
This study examines two complex syntactic dependencies (complement control and sentence-final temporal adjunct control) and one pragmatic dependency (controlled verbal gerund subjects) in children with ASD. Sixteen high-functioning (HFA) children (aged 6 to 16) with a diagnosis of autism and no language impairment, matched on age, gender and non-verbal MA to one TD control group, and on age, gender and verbal MA to another TD control group, undertook three picture-selection tasks. Task 1 measured their base-line interpretations of the empty categories (ec). Task 2 preceded these sentence sets with a weakly established topic cueing an alternative referent and Task 3 with a strongly established topic cueing an alternative referent. In complement control (Ron persuaded Hermione ec to kick the ball) and sentence-final temporal adjunct control (Harry tapped Luna while ec feeding the owl), the reference of the ec is argued to be related obligatorily to the object and subject respectively. In controlled verbal-gerund subjects (ec Rowing the boat clumsily made Luna seasick), the ec’s reference is resolved pragmatically. Referent choices across the three tasks were compared. TD children chose the object uniformly in complement control across all tasks but in adjunct control, preferences shifted towards the object in Task 3. In controlled verbal-gerund subjects, they exhibited a strong preference for an internal-referent interpretation in Task 1, which shifted in the direction of the cues in Tasks 2 and 3. HFA children gave a mixed performance. They patterned with their TD counterparts on complement control and controlled verbal-gerund subjects but performed marginally differently on adjunct control: no TD groups were influenced by the weakly established topic in Task 2 but all groups were influenced by the strongly established topic in Task 3. HFA children were less influenced than the TD children, resulting in them making fewer object choices overall but revealing parallel patterns of performance. In this first study of three sub-types of control in ASD, we demonstrate that HFA children consult the same pragmatic cues to the same degree as TD children, in spite of the diverse pragmatic deficits reported for this population.
Janke, V. (2016). Who did what to whom?. Babel: The Language Magazine [Online] 15:16-20. Available at: https://cloud.3dissue.com/18743/41457/106040/issue15new/index.html.
A project sponsored by the British Academy at the University of Kent demonstrates key areas of language at which individuals with autism spectrum disorder excel. Dr Vikki Janke explains aspects of grammatical and contextual skills that are right on target and why this is good news.
Janke, V. and Kolokonte, M. (2015). False Cognates: The Effect of Mismatch in Morphological Complexity on a Backward Lexical Translation Task. Second Language Research [Online] 31:137-156. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0267658314545836.
In this article we focus on ‘false cognates’, lexical items that have overlapping orthographic/phonological properties but little or no semantic overlap. False-cognate pairs were created from French (second language or L2) and English (first language or L1) items by manipulating the levels of morphological correspondence between them. Our aim was to test whether mismatches in morphological structure affected success on a low-frequency backward lexical translation task. Fifty-eight participants, divided into four groups (A-level; degree level; adult learners; bilinguals) were tested on monomorphemic items (simplex), polymorphemic items (complex), items whose morphological structure in French exceeded that of their English counterpart (mismatch), and control items. Translation success rate followed a uniform pattern: control > mismatch > simplex > complex. With respect to the false-friend effect, participant responses were also uniform: complex > simplex > mismatch. It is argued that an independent level of morphology explains these results.
Janke, V. and Perovic, A. (2015). Intact Grammar in HFA? Evidence from Control and Binding. Lingua [Online] 164:68-86. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2015.06.009.
This study contributes original results to the topical issue of the degree to which grammar is intact in high-functioning children with autism (HFA). We examine the comprehension of binding and obligatory control in 26 HFA children, mean age=12;02, compared with two groups of younger typically developing (TD) children: one matched on non-verbal mental age (MA), mean age=9;09, and the other on verbal MA, mean age=8;09. On the binding task, our HFA group showed a good performance on reflexives on a par with TD matched children, in line with recent reports of intact knowledge of reflexive binding in higher but not lower-functioning children with autism. Their comprehension of personal pronouns was somewhat poorer, with no difference observed between the groups, again supporting the existing literature. Results on the control task, which probed mastery of syntactic relations never previously examined in autism, revealed that both HFA children and the two matched TD groups were at ceiling on single-complement subject control (try) and object control (persuade). However, a considerably poorer attainment on double-complement subject control (promise) was present equally in the HFA group and the verbal MA-matched TD group but not in the non-verbal MA-matched group. Performance on promise correlated with age only in the verbal MA-matched group, whilst in HFA it correlated with general cognitive and language abilities. These novel findings demonstrate that regular obligatory control and reflexive binding are preserved in HFA. We contrast these results with previous literature that has demonstrated deficiencies with passives and raising in HFA populations. The emerging bifurcation suggests different analyses for the principles underlying these constructions: whereas the latter incorporate movement, control and binding do not. The poor performance on promise supports all previous literature on this lexically and syntactically idiosyncratic construction. Its breaking of locality, which in turn results in a conflict between lexical and syntactic requirements, is exceptional and introduces an extra step of learning. This step appears to be related to maturation in TD children, and to stronger language and cognitive skills in HFA children.
Janke, V. and Kolokonte, M. (2015). The False-Friend Effect in Three Profoundly Deaf Learners of French: Disentangling Morphology, Phonology and Orthography. Second Language Research [Online] 31:551-562. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0267658315576951.
Three profoundly deaf individuals undertook a low-frequency backward lexical translation task (French/English), where morphological structure was manipulated and orthographic distance between test items was measured. Conditions included monomorphemic items (simplex), polymorphemic items (complex), items whose French morphological structure exceeded their English counterpart (mismatch), and a control. Order of translation success was uniform: control > mismatch > simplex > complex, as was order for false-cognate errors: complex > simplex > mismatch, patterning precisely with hearing participants (Janke and Kolokonte, 2014). We discuss how these results highlight a route for future studies to disentangle phonology and orthography further from morphology in first-language interference.
Perovic, A. and Janke, V. (2013). Issues in the Acquisition of Binding and Control in High-Functioning Children with Autism. UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 25:131-143.
In this study, we test 12 high-functioning children with autism (HFA), aged 12-16, on a picture-selection task assessing comprehension of binding and compare their performance on this construction with that on an already conducted, similarly designed task, testing comprehension of obligatory control (Janke & Perovic, submitted). We compare the children’s performance on these two tasks to that of a younger gender- and verbal MA-matched typically developing (TD) group. No difference between the groups’ performance was found, with both performing at ceiling on the two tasks. By comparing comprehension of two constructions which share a number of syntactic properties, these results provide further corroboration for the claim in Janke and Perovic (submitted) and Perovic, Modyanova and Wexler (2013a) that certain syntactic dependencies in high-functioning individuals with autism are intact. This contribution is of clinical import, as it provides practitioners with a more precise profile of advanced grammatical abilities. The paper’s theoretical significance lies with its division between binding and control on the one hand and raising on the other. While binding and obligatory control pattern together in our sample, research using the same paradigm on a different sample of children, also high-functioning and with an age range of 10-16, show an impaired comprehension of raised structures relative to unraised structures and fillers (Perovic, Modyanova & Wexler, 2007). We hypothesise that the source of this difference lies with the extra degree of complexity in raising that is absent from binding and control: raising involves argument displacement.
Janke, V. and Neeleman, A. (2012). Ascending and Descending VPs in English. Linguistic Inquiry [Online] 43:151-190. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/LING_a_00082.
We argue that English allows both rightward-descending VP shell structures and more traditional rightward-ascending VPs. The choice between these depends on case theory and economy. Case theory triggers VP shell formation whenever the verb is merged with a DP object after it has been merged with some other category. The reason is that VP shell formation allows verb and object to surface in adjacent positions, a prerequisite for case licensing in English. Economy has the effect that in all other circumstances, VP shell formation is blocked. Our argument is based on a range of intricate data, many of which involve the distribution of object-oriented floating quantifiers. We end with a discussion of the binding data that are often taken to support a uniformly descending structure—incorrectly, in our view.
Janke, V. (2008). Control without a Subject. Lingua [Online] 118:82-118. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2007.05.002.
The aim of this paper is to develop a representation of control that does not require a PRO-subject. I first analyse obligatory control using a de-compositional analysis of ?-roles, according to which ?-roles are divided into two selectional requirements. The resulting theory makes the same predictions as one based on PRO, yet avoids dependence on this ill-defined empty category. I then concentrate on Icelandic, tackling agreement phenomena in infinitival clauses. Again no PRO is necessary to cater for the data, which receive a uniform account using the mechanism outlined in the first half of the paper.
Janke, V. and Neeleman, A. (2005). Floating Quantifiers and English VP-Structure. Ms., University College London:1-32.
In this paper we argue that English allows both traditional left-branching VPs and right-branching VP-shell structures (as first proposed in Larson 1988a, 1990). The choice between these depends on case theory and economy. Case theory triggers VP-shell formation whenever the verb is merged with a DP-object after it has been merged with some other category. The reason is that VP-shell formation allows verb and object to surface in adjacent positions, which is a prerequisite for case checking in English. Economy has the effect that in all other circumstances, VP-shell formation is blocked. We show that this proposal correctly regulates word order in transitive and ditransitive VPs, as well as in VPs that contain a particle. However, the main independent evidence we present comes from object-oriented floating quantifiers, whose distribution is limited to VP-shell structures. In developing this argument, we will propose an analysis of
floating quantifiers as anaphoric adverbials. We will also compare this analysis with alternatives according to which floating quantifiers are stranded by movement.
Janke, V. (2005). A Syntactic Representation of Control without a Subject. [Online] 17:131-172. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/research/linguistics/research/uclwpl/uclwpl17.
The aim of this paper is to develop a representation of control that does not require a
PRO-subject. I first analyse obligatory control using a de-compositional analysis of theta-roles,
according to which theta-roles are divided into two selectional requirements. The
resulting theory makes the same predictions as one based on PRO, yet avoids
dependence on this ill-defined empty category. I then concentrate on Icelandic,
tackling agreement phenomena in infinitival clauses. Again no PRO is necessary to
answer for the data, which receive a uniform account using the mechanism outlined in
the first half of the paper.