Ozge, D., Marinis, T. and Zeyrek, D.
Production of relative clauses in monolingual Turkish children.
Proceedings of the 34th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, Supplement.
Official URL: http://www.cascadilla.com/bucld34toc.html
Research on the production of relative clauses (RCs) has shown that in English, although children
start using intransitive RCs at an earlier age, more complex, bi-propositional object RCs appear later
(Hamburger & Crain, 1982; Diessel and Tomasello, 2005), and children use resumptive pronouns
both in acceptable and unacceptable ways (McKee, McDaniel, & Snedeker, 1998; McKee &
To date, it is unclear whether or not the same picture emerges in Turkish, a language with an SOV
word-order and overt case marking. Some studies suggested that subject RCs are more frequent in
adults and children (Slobin, 1986) and yield a better performance than object RCs (Özcan, 1996), but
others reported the opposite pattern (Ekmekçi, 1990). Our study addresses this issue in Turkish
children and adults, and uses participants’ errors to account for the emerging asymmetry between
subject and object RCs.
37 5-to-8 year old monolingual Turkish children and 23 adult controls participated in a novel
elicitation task involving cards, each consisting of four different pictures (see Figure 1). There were
two sets of cards, one for the participant and one for the researcher. The former had animals with
accessories (e.g., a hat) whereas the latter had no accessories. Participants were instructed to hold
their card without showing it to the researcher and describe the animals with particular accessories.
This prompted the use of subject and object RCs. The researcher had to identify the animals in her
card (see Figure 2).
A preliminary repeated measures ANOVA with the factor Group (pre-school, primary-school
children) showed no differences between the groups in the use of RCs (p>.1), who were therefore
collapsed into one for further analyses. A repeated measures ANOVA with the factors Group
(children, adults) and RC-Type (Subject, Object) showed that children used fewer RCs than adults
(F(1,58)=7.54, p<.01), and both groups used fewer object than subject RCs (F(1,58)=22.46, p<.001),
but there was no Group by RC-Type interaction (see Figure 3). A similar ANOVA on the rate of
grammatical RCs showed a main effect of Group (F(1,58)=77.25, p<.001), a main effect of RC-Type
(F(1,58)=66.33, p<.001), and an interaction of Group by RC-Type (F(1,58)=64.6, p<.001) (see
Figure 4). Children made more errors than adults in object RCs (F(1,58)=87.01, p<.001), and
children made more errors in object compared to subject RCs (F(1,36)=106.35, p<.001), but adults
did not show this asymmetry. The error analysis revealed that children systematically avoided the
object-relativizing morpheme –DIK, which requires possessive agreement with the genitive-marked
subject. They also used resumptive pronouns and resumptive full-DPs in the extraction site similarly
to English children (see Figure 5).
These findings are in line with Slobin (1986) and Özcan (1996). Children’s errors suggest that they
avoid morphosyntactic complexity of object RCs and try to preserve the canonical word order by
inserting resumptive pronouns in the extraction site. Finally, cross-linguistic similarity in the
acquisition of RCs in typologically different languages suggests a higher accessibility of subject RCs
both at the structural (Keenan and Comrie, 1977) and conceptual level (Bock and Warren, 1986).
|ESRC||Real-time processing of syntactic information in children with English as a Second Language & children with specific Language impairment (internal code: H5007200 sponsor code: RES-061-23-0137)|
|Date Deposited:||25 Jan 2011 15:42|
|Last Modified:||26 Mar 2015 07:10|
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