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The comprehension of passives in Mandarin children with and without DLD: from the perspective of Edge Feature Underspecification Hypothesis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 December 2023

Jiao Du
Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, China
Xiaowei He
Faculty of English Language and Culture, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, China
Haopeng Yu*
Faculty of English Language and Culture, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, China Faculty of Foreign Studies, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang, China
Corresponding author: Haopeng Yu; Email:


This paper investigates the comprehension of long and short passives in 15 Mandarin preschool children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) (aged 4;2–5;11 years), 15 Typically Developing Age-matched (TDA) (aged 4;3–5;8 years) children, and 15 Typically Developing Younger (TDY) (aged 3;2–4;3 years) children by using the picture-sentence matching task. The results reveal that children with DLD encounter more difficulty comprehending long passives compared with short passive, that they perform worse on the comprehension task than TDA children and TDY children, and that this population is more likely to commit thematic role reversal errors and point to pictures with the incorrect agent (patient) than typically developing children. Given that Mandarin passives are Topic Structures, we maintain that children with DLD are insensitive to the edge feature of the moved element in long passives, leading to Relativized Minimality effect and causing the asymmetry between the comprehension of long and short passives. These results align well with the Edge Feature Underspecification Hypothesis. Errors found in the children with DLD in the comprehension task point toward impaired syntactic knowledge and the lexical semantic deficit.

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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