UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 13 (2001)

Binding Principles in Down syndrome



In an experiment designed to tap into knowledge of Binding in individuals with Down syndrome (DS), it was found that subjects had specific difficulties assigning appropriate interpretation to reflexives, traditionally claimed to be governed by Principle A of standard Binding Theory, as opposed to pronouns, constrained by Principle B in the same framework. This pattern, not previously evidenced in the literature, is the reverse of the well known ‘Delay of Principle B’ effect confirmed in typical acquisition. The findings suggest that the process of acquisition of Binding in DS may be qualitatively different compared to typical linguistic development, rendering the traditional 'slow-but-normal' characterisation of language development in DS no longer tenable. Embracing the Reflexivity framework of Reinhart & Reuland (1993), I also argue that these findings reveal a specific syntactic deficit in the language of DS, related to the inability to establish a certain syntactic dependency, namely the binding relation between an anaphor and its antecedent.

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