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

2009 Journal of Child Language  
A B S T R A C T 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
more » ... uce 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.
doi:10.1017/s030500090900943x pmid:19327196 fatcat:e6akhnjv7vemhdwl3pm52kk66q