The aim of this study is to determine universal vs. language-specific
aspects of children's ability to organize cohesive anaphoric relations in
discourse. Analyses examine narratives produced on the basis of two
picture sequences by subjects of four ages (preschoolers, seven-year-olds, ten-year-olds, adults) in four languages: English (n = 80), German
(n = 40), French (n = 40), and Mandarin Chinese (n = 40). Particular
attention is placed on the impact of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic
factors in determining the uses of referring expressions and of word
order in the maintenance of reference to the animate characters.
Although subjecthood and agency determine NP position within the
clause, role relations in discourse coreference account for NP form in all
languages, notwithstanding some variations across languages, ages, and
referents (e.g. density of coreference, null elements vs. overt pronouns,
clause structures). It is concluded that the development of anaphora is
determined by universal pragmatic principles and by language-specific
properties characterizing how languages map discourse-internal and
sentence-internal functions onto the same forms.