Production, compréhension et imitation des constructions causatives chez des enfants monolingues francophones et bulgarophones âgés de 3 à 6 ans

Abstract : The present study investigates the causative constructions from a developmental and cross-linguistic perspective. On the one hand, it aims to show the important role of the morphosyntactic complexity of causative mechanisms during language acquisition. On the other hand, it aims to examine different language skills (production, comprehension, imitation) in order to explore various levels of mastery of the causative constructions in two languages, French and Bulgarian. The two languages under investigation, French and Bulgarian, do not use the same mechanisms to express causativity. French uses the faire + Vinf complex predicate and some lexical causatives (nourrir X – feed X). In Bulgarian, the causativity is expressed using three mechanisms: lexical (xranja X – feed X), morphological (prefix ‘raz-': razsmivam X - make X laugh) and periphrastic construction (karam X da V pres – make that X + V pres). A total of 113 L1 French speakers (71 children and 42 adults) and 96 L1 Bulgarian speakers (56 children and 40 adults) took part in this cross-linguistic study. The children were divided into three age groups: 3-4, 4-5 and 5-6 years of age; they all participated in three experimental tasks (production, comprehension and imitation). The adults took part in one experimental task (production). Our cross-linguistic study provided some interesting results. Firstly, the conceptualization of causativity is equally understood in both languages, each child group globally understands the causative mechanisms available in their own language. Secondly, the order of acquisition of the causative mechanisms is tightly linked to its degree of morphosyntactic complexity. In both languages, lexical causatives are already mastered by all the children groups. Surprisingly enough, in Bulgarian, the morphological causative appears to be a late language development, as children as old as 5 to 6 years produce overgeneralizations of this mechanism, that means it is not yet mastered. In the Bulgarian data, we found that the periphrastic construction is acquired between the ages of 4 to 5 years; the children of this age group already show an adult-like ability in producing this analytical causative mechanism. In the French data, we found that the production of the faire + Vinf complex predicate begins to stabilize; however, children have to adjust both the integrity of the faire + Vinf structure and the usage of the causee argument (its syntactic function and its presence in the utterance). Thirdly, in instances when the structure of causative mechanisms is present during the imitation task, the children's production is improved. In conclusion, by including various language skills (production, comprehension and imitation), this study brings a new perspective in investigating the causative constructions. Our research is also consistent with both the Competition model and the usage-based approaches; it validates the relevance of three major factors determining the order of acquisition of the linguistic structures: 1/ input frequency (or ‘cue availability'); 2/ cue reliability; 3/ formal and semantic complexity (or ‘cue cost').
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Yanka Bezinska. Production, compréhension et imitation des constructions causatives chez des enfants monolingues francophones et bulgarophones âgés de 3 à 6 ans. Linguistique. Université de Grenoble, 2014. Français. ⟨NNT : 2014GRENL011⟩. ⟨tel-01158119⟩

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