Vicenç Torrens (PhD, University of Barcelona) is Associate Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid, Spain. His research interests are the acquisition of clitic pronouns, tense, agreement, mood and aspect in first language and language impairment. He has been a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a visiting scholar at Harvard University. During his studies, he was a visiting scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at the City University of New York (CUNY). He's also a certified Speech and Language Therapist by the Association of Speech Therapy in Barcelona. His work has appeared in different series of John Benjamins, Kluwer, Cambridge Scholars Publishing and Prentice Hall.
After doing research on the acquisition of clitic pronouns, he showed that while omission is high in young Catalan-speaking children, it is very low in Spanish-speaking children. He argues that this difference can be attributed to a property of their respective grammars (the presence or otherwise of past participle agreement when objects cliticize) under the Unique Checking Constraint by Wexler (1998).
In another experiment on participle agreement, he confirmed that in the early stages sensitivity to past participle agreement was found, and found a statistically significant difference between Catalan and Spanish. This means that the rate of clitic omission cannot be atributed to the lack of grammaticality in the early stages. He showed that the parametric approach postulated can be extended overt objects, beyond Catalan and Spanish.
In a project on dative experiencers in Spanish speaking children, he showed that children have difficulty with psych verbs that do not project the subject as the external argument. Our findings support the External Argument Requirement Hypothesis (EARH), according to which children until 5 or more have trouble with base structures that don’t assign a subject/external argument. On the basis of the results, we argue that acquisition of the entire class of psych verbs depends on the acquisition of one linguistic property that allows the L1 grammar to generate structures with no external argument.
In a project on the acquisition of Inflection in Spanish and Catalan, he found that children speaking languages with a rich morphological system don't produce root infinitives. The Maturational Hypothesis (Radford, 1988, 1990) proposes the maturation of Inflection. The Continuity Hypothesis (Hyams, 1983, 1992a; Pinker, 1984) proposes that children possess the functional category Inflection. In this research it has been observed that children produce a correct agreement between subject and verb. Also, it has been observed that children distinguish finite and nonfinite verbs because they produce them in the correct contexts. The evidence shows that the are two different types of language with regard to the production of root infnitives.
In a study that examined empirical data from Spanish and Catalan children with SLI, he found data in favor of the grammatical agreement deficit hypothesis (Clahsen 1989, 1991, 1997). Following Chomsky’s (1995) system of morphosyntactic features in terms of interpretability, the authors assume that all uninterpretable features are affected in the grammar of children with SLI. The data reveal a morphosyntactic deficit in the Determiner system and in the subject-verb agreement paradigm, posing problems with case marking.