Catalan Child Relative Contrasts as a Processing Effect
Anna Gavarró, Arnau Cunill, Míriam Muntané, and Marc Reguant
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Research in various languages indicates that children interpret subject relatives in an adult-like manner substantially earlier than they interpret object relatives. This asymmetry, while grounded in a grammatical contrast, may be attributed to processing of the corresponding syntactic structures, as in Gibson (1998), Morrill (2000). One question which emerges is: if processing can be argued to be the source of poor performance in the interpretation of object relatives, does this carry over to production? This issue is addressed in this paper with the acquisition of Catalan; original results for relative clause elicitation are parallel to those of a relative clause interpretation experiment. It is proposed to account for the findings by adopting an analysis based on Morrill's (2000) metric of syntactic complexity, an implementation of Gibson's (1998) insight that processing difficulties increase as a function of the number of unresolved dependencies that the speaker must keep in memory. Gibson's and Morrill's proposals are neutral with respect to whether linguistic knowledge is put to use in production or comprehension; here it is claimed that, in fact, for the empirical domain considered, production and comprehension are equally taxed.
Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2010)
edited by Mihaela Pirvulescu, María Cristina Cuervo, Ana T. Pérez-Leroux, Jeffrey Steele, and Nelleke Strik
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