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Contrast: a semantic constraint?*

  • Virginia C. Gathercole (a1)
Abstract

This article challenges the position of Clark (1988) with regard to Contrast. The evidence cited in support of this theory from adult languages is far from clear, and the evidence coming from child language admits of alternative explanations. In addition, the ‘logic’ of assuming Contrast leads to insurmountable difficulties in the acquisition of irregular forms and allomorphs. An alternative to Contrast is proposed. This draws on the drive towards the adult system, the development of non-linguistic concepts, the acquisition of language in context, and the use of the Co-operative Principle by participants in conversational exchanges to account for those features of language and language acquisition that Contrast was designed to explain.

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English Department, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199, USA.
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*

I wish to thank Eve Clark for stimulating this discussion and Margarita Azmitia, Lynn Berk, Becky Burns, and Barbara Pearson for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
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