Relative clauses. Experimental test items. (1) The deer [that jumps over the lion] bumps into the donkey. (2) The lion [that the donkey bumps into] jumps over the deer. (3) The deer bumps into the donkey [that jumps over the lion].
Experimental test items (1) The deer [that jumps over the lion] bumps into the donkey. (2) The lion [that the donkey bumps into] jumps over the deer. (3) The deer bumps into the donkey [that jumps over the lion]. (4) The donkey stands on the deer [that the lio jumps over].
Children’s spontaneous relative clauses (1) That’s the rabbit that fall off. [Nina 2;7] (2) Look at dat train Ursula bought. [Adam 2;10] (3) This is the sugar that goes in there. [Nina 3;0] (4) That’s a picture I made. [Adam 3;0] (5) Here’s a tiger that’s gonna scare him. [Nina 3;1] (6) It’s a song that we dance to. [Nina 3;2]
Semantic complexity (1) Here’s the tiger that’s gonna scare him. > The tiger is gonna scare him. (2) This is the sugar that goes in there. > The sugar goes in there. (3) It’s a song that we dance to. > We dance to a song.
Head of the relative clause (1) The man who we saw was reading a book. SUBJ (2) He noticed the man who was reading a book. DO (3) He saw to the man who was reading a book. IO NP (4) The man who was reading a book. (5) That’s the man who was reading a book. PN
Head of relative clause (development) PN OBJ PN NP OBJ NP OBL OBL OBL SUBJ
Motivating factors • Semantic complexity • Input frequency • Information structure • Pragmatic function
Conclusion PN-relatives are the earliest relative clauses that children learn because: (1) they suit the communicative needs of young children (2) they are semantically similar to simple sentences.
Syntactic amalgams (1) That’s doggy turn around. [Nina 1;11] (2) That’s a turtle swim. [Nina 2;2] (3) Here’s a mouse go sleep. [Nina 2;3] (4) That’s the roof go on that home. [Nina 2;4] (5) That’s the rabbit fall off. [Nina 2;4]
Relativizsed syntactic role (3) The man who met the woman. (1) The man who the woman talked to. obl (2) The man who the woman met. obj subj (4) The man who the girl gave the book to. io (5) The man whose dog bit the woman. gen
Relativized syntactic role (development) obj subj obl
Results English German subj vs. do p =. 001 do vs. io p = .173 do vs. obl p = .169 subj vs. do p =. 001 do vs. io p = .061 io vs. obl p = .001
Subj-relatives Why did subj-relatives cause the fewest errors?
Subj-relatives English ITEM: This is the girl who the boy teased at school. CHILD: This is the girl that teased … the boy … at school. German ITEM: Da ist der Mann, den das Mädchen im Stall gesehen hat. CHILD: Da ist der Mann, der das Mädchen im Stall gesehen hat.
Subj-relatives English (1) This is the girl who bor/ Peter borrowed a football from. German (2) Da ist der Junge, der/ dem Paul … die Mütze weggenommen hat.
Questions Why are children inconsistent in their responses? What explains the frequent occurrence of repairs?
Hypothesis Subj-relatives can be activated more easily. What determines the ease of activation?
Frequency and ease of activation The more frequently a grammatical construction occurs, the more deeply entrenched it is in mental grammar, and the easier it is to activate in language use.
Input frequency (Diessel 2004)
Order of thematic roles (1) The boy kissed the girl. (2) This is the boy who kissed the girl. (3) This is the boy who the girl kissed.
Order of thematic roles AGENT VERB PATIENT. Simple clause PRO is AGENT rel VERB PATIENT. Subj relative PRO is PATIENT rel AGENT VERB. Other relatives
Question Why did the English-speaking children basically produce the same amount of errors in response to obj- and obl-relatives?
DO, IO, OBL-relatives (1) The boy who kissed the girl. SUBJ (2) The boy who the girl kissed. DO (3) The boy who the girl talked to. OBL (4) The boy who the girl gave the letter to. IO (5) The boy whose brother kissed the girl. GEN
Word order in English relative clauses NP [V …] subj NP [NP V …] do NP [NP V …] io NP [NP V …] obl NP [[GEN N] V …] gen
Relative pronouns in German relative clauses Der Mann, der … subj Der Mann, den … do Der Mann, dem … io Der Mann, mit/von dem … obl Der Mann, dessen N gen
Question Why were genitive relatives almost always incorrect?
Gen- and io-relatives Both gen- and io-relatives are basically absent from the ambient language. Io-relatives caused fewer errors than gen-relatives because they are similar to do-relatives.
Summary • Subj-relatives caused few problems because they are similar to simple sentences. • English do-, io-, and obl-relatives caused basically the same amount of problems because they have the same word order. • Io-relatives caused relatively few problems because they are similar to do-relatives. • Gen-relatives and German obl-relatives caused great problems because they are dissimilar to other relative clauses. Important is the similarity between constructions:
Why does similarity matter? Relative clauses are constructions (i.e. form-function pairings) that are related to each other in a network like lexical expressions. Children acquire this network in a piecemeal, bottom-up fashion by relating new relative clause constructions to constructions they already know.
A network of relative constructions … [gen-relative] …-relatives …-relatives …-relatives That is N [subj-relative] Simple Sentences