Rethinking child difficulty: The effect of NP type on children's processing of relative clauses in Hebrew

Inbal Arnon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children find object relative clauses difficult. They show poor comprehension that lags behind production into their fifth year. This finding has shaped models of relative clause acquisition, with appeals to processing heuristics or syntactic preferences to explain why object relatives are more difficult than subject relatives. Two studies here suggest that children (age 4 ; 6) do not find all object relatives difficult: a corpus study shows that children most often hear and produce object relatives with pronominal subjects. But they are most often tested on ones with lexical-NP subjects (e.g. The nurse that the girl is drawing). When tested on object relatives with pronominal subjects (e.g. The nurse that I am drawing), similar to those they actually hear and produce, Hebrew speakers aged 4 ; 6 show good comprehension (85% accuracy) that matches their production ability. This suggests a different path of relative clause acquisition, one that is sensitive to fine-grained distributional information.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-57
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Child Language
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

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