Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Not committing has its advantages: facilitating children's comprehension of object filler–gap dependencies is one of them*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2017


ANAMARIA BENTEA
Affiliation:
Université de Genève, Switzerland
STEPHANIE DURRLEMAN
Affiliation:
Université de Genève, Switzerland
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Two studies assess French-speaking children's comprehension of object filler–gap dependencies, with the goal of investigating whether the degree of specificity/set-restriction of the fronted object or the intervening subject modulates comprehension. We tease apart the predictions of various accounts attributing children's difficulties to (i) similarities between the object and the intervening subject (Gordon et al., 2001, 2004), particularly when both constituents share a structural +NP feature (Friedmann et al., 2009); (ii) increased processing cost determined by an operation of set-restriction (Goodluck 2010); and (iii) the tendency to incrementally interpret sentences and the subsequent difficulty in revising an early commitment to an agent/subject-first analysis (Trueswell et al., 1999). Our results support the incremental processing view as they reveal that only a less specific fronted object, but not a less specific intervener, enhances comprehension. This suggests that referentially ambiguous objects alleviate children from an erroneous initial interpretive commitment to an agent/subject-first structure.


Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

Footnotes

*

We thank the participating children, as well as Samantha Forgnone and Karoliina Lohiniva for their help with data collection. This work has benefited from support by the Swiss National Scientific Foundation grants P1GEP1_148779 and PA00P1_136355.


References

Adani, F. (2012). Some notes on the acquisition of Relative Clauses: New Data and Open Questions. In Bianchi, V. & Chesi, C. (eds), ENJOY LINGUISTICS! Papers offered to Luigi Rizzi on the occasion of his 60th birthday, 613. University of Siena: Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Cognitivi sul Linguaggio.Google Scholar
Adani, F., van der Lely, H. K., Forgiarini, M. & Guasti, M. T. (2010). Grammatical feature dissimilarities make relative clauses easier: a comprehension study with Italian children. Lingua 120(9), 2148–66.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Arnon, I. (2005). Relative clause acquisition in Hebrew: towards a processing-oriented account. In Brugos, A., Clark-Cotton, M. R. & Ha, S. (eds), Proceedings of the 29th Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD29), 3748. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
Arnon, I. (2010). Rethinking child difficulty: the effect of NP type on children's processing of relative clauses in Hebrew. Journal of Child Language 37(1), 131.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Arosio, F., Guasti, M. T. & Stucchi, N. (2011). Disambiguating information and memory resources in children's processing of Italian relative clauses. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 40, 137–54.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Avrutin, S. (2000). Comprehension of Wh-questions by children and Broca's aphasics. In Grodzinsky, Y., Shapiro, E. P. & Swinney, D. A. (eds), Language and the brain: representation and processing, 295312. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B. & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67(1), 148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Belletti, A., Friedmann, N., Brunato, D. & Rizzi, L. (2012). Does gender make a difference? Comparing the effect of gender on children's comprehension of relative clauses in Hebrew and Italian. Lingua 122, 1053–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bentea, A. & Durrleman, S. (2015). Out of sight, not out of mind: the impact of unexpressed features on children's performance with relative clauses. Paper presented at The Romance Turn VII International Conference on the Acquisition of Romance Languages, Venice.Google Scholar
Bentea, A., Durrleman, S. & Rizzi, L. (2016). Refining intervention: the acquisition of featural relations in object A-bar dependencies. Lingua 169, 2141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brandt, S., Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2008). The acquisition of German relative clauses: a case study. Journal of Child Language 35, 325–48.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brandt, S., Kidd, E., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M. (2009). The discourse bases of relativization: an investigation of young German and English-speaking children's comprehension of relative clauses. Cognitive Linguistics 20(3), 539–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, B.-G., Ning, A.-H., Bi, H.-Y. & Dunlap, S. (2008). Chinese subject-relative clauses are more difficult to process than the object-relative clauses. Acta Psychologica 129, 61–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Contemori, C. & Garraffa, M. (2010). A cross modality study on syntax in SLI: the limits of computation as a measure of linguistic abilities. Lingua 8, 1940–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Contemori, C. & Marinis, T. (2014). The impact of number mismatch and passives on the real-time processing of relative clauses. Journal of Child Language 41(3), 658–89.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Crain, S. (1991). Language acquisition in the absence of experience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4, 597650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diessel, H. (2004). The acquisition of complex sentences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2000). The development of relative clauses in spontaneous child speech. Cognitive Linguistics 11, 131–51.Google Scholar
Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2005). A new look at the acquisition of relative clauses. Language 81(4), 882906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Donkers, J., Hoeks, J. C. & Stowe, L. A. (2013). D-linking or set-restriction? Processing Which-questions in Dutch. Language and Cognitive Processes 28, 928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Durrleman, S., Marinis, T. & Franck, J. (2016). Syntactic complexity in the comprehension of wh-questions and relative clauses in typical language development and autism. Applied Psycholinguistics 37(6), 1501–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frazier, L. & Clifton, C. Jr. (2002). Processing ‘d-linked’ phrases. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 31, 633–60.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Friedmann, N., Belletti, A. & Rizzi, L. (2009). Relativised relatives: types of intervention in the acquisition of A-bar dependencies. Lingua 119, 6788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Friedmann, N. & Novogrodsky, R. (2011). Which questions are most difficult to understand? The comprehension of Wh questions in three subtypes of SLI. Lingua 121, 367–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garraffa, M. & Grillo, N. (2008). Canonicity effects as grammatical phenomena. Journal of Neurolinguistics 21, 177–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibson, E. (1998). Linguistic complexity: locality of syntactic dependencies. Cognition 68, 176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibson, E. (2000). The dependency locality theory: a distance-based theory of linguistic complexity. In Marantz, A., Miyashita, Y. & O'Neil, W. (eds), Image, language, brain, 95126. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Gibson, E. & Wu, H.-H. I. (2013) Processing Chinese relative clauses in context. Language and Cognitive Processes 28 125–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodluck, H. (2005). D(iscourse)-linking and question formation: comprehension effects in children and Broca's aphasics. In Di Sciullo, A. M. (ed.), UG and external systems: language, brain and computation 185–92. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodluck, H. (2010). Object extraction is not subject to Child Relativized Minimality. Lingua 120(6), 1516–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodluck, H., Guilfoyle, E. & Harrington, S. (2006). Merge and binding in child relative clauses: the case of Irish. Journal of Linguistics 42(3), 629–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodluck, H. & Zweig, E. (2013). Introduction: formal vs. processing explanations of linguistic phenomena. Language and Cognitive Processes 28(1/2), 18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gordon, P. C., Hendrick, R. & Johnson, M. (2001). Memory interference during language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 27(6), 1411–23.Google ScholarPubMed
Gordon, P. C., Hendrick, R. & Johnson, M. (2004). Effects of noun phrase type on sentence complexity . Journal of Memory and Language 51, 97114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grillo, N. (2008). Generalized minimality: syntactic underspecification in Broca's aphasia. Doctoral dissertation, University of Utrecht. Utrecht: LOT.Google Scholar
Grillo, N. (2009). Generalized Minimality: feature impoverishment and comprehension deficits in agrammatism. Lingua 119, 1426–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haendler, Y., Kliegl, R. & Adani, F. (2015). Discourse accessibility constraints in children's processing of object relative clauses. Frontiers in Psychology 6, 860.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hamburger, H. & Crain, S. (1982). Relative acquisition. In Kuczaj, S. (ed.), Language development, vol.1: syntax and semantics (pp. 245274). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Hsiao, F. & Gibson, E. (2003). Processing relative clauses in Chinese. Cognition 90, 327.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hu, S., Gavarró, A., Vernice, & Guasti, M.-T. (2016). The acquisition of Chinese relative clauses: contrasting two theoretical approaches. Journal of Child Language 43, 121.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Huang, Y. T., Zheng, X., Meng, X. & Snedeker, J. (2013). Children's assignment of grammatical roles in the online processing of Mandarin passive sentences. Journal of Memory and Language 69, 589606.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jaeger, T. F. (2008). Categorical data analysis: away from ANOVAs (transformation or not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 59, 434–46.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kidd, E., Brandt, S., Lieven, E. & Tomasello, M. (2007). Object relatives made easy: a cross-linguistic comparison of the constraints influencing young children's processing of relative clauses. Language and Cognitive Processes 22, 860–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lin, C.-J. C. & Bever, T. G. (2006). Subject preference in the processing of relative clauses in Chinese. In Baumer, D., Montero, D. & Scanlon, M. (eds), Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 254–60. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.Google Scholar
Lin, C.-J. C. & Bever, T. G. (2011). Garden path and the comprehension of head-final relative clauses. In Yamashita, H., Hirose, Y. & Packard, J. L. (eds), Processing and producing head-final structures, 277–97. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
MacDonald, M., Pearlmutter, N. & Seidenberg, M. (1994). The lexical nature of syntactic ambiguity resolution. Psychological Review 101, 676703.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Mak, W. M., Vonk, W. & Schriefers, H. (2006). Animacy in processing relative clauses: the hikers that rocks crush. Journal of Memory and Language 54, 466490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morgenstern, A. & Parisse, C. (2007). Codage et interprétation du langage spontané d'enfants de 1 à 3 ans. Corpus n°6: Interprétation, contextes, codage, 5578.Google Scholar
Novick, J. M., Trueswell, J. C. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2005). Cognitive control and parsing: re-examining the role of Broca's area in sentence comprehension. Journal of Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 5, 263281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Novick, J. M., Trueswell, J. C. & Thompson-Schill, S. (2005). Cognitive control and parsing: re-examining the role of Broca's area in sentence comprehension. Journal of Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 5, 263281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Omaki, A. & Lidz, J. (2015). Linking parser development to acquisition of syntactic knowledge. Language Acquisition 22(2), 158–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Omaki, A, Davidson White, I., Goro, T., Lidz, J. & Phillips, C. (2014). No fear of commitment: children's incremental interpretation in English and Japanese wh-questions. Language Learning and Development 10, 206–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pesetsky, D. (1987). Wh-in-situ: movement and unselective binding. In Reuland, E. & ter Meulen, A. (eds), The representation of (in)definiteness, 98129. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Pesetsky, D. (2000). Phrasal movement and its kin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Pinker, S. (1984) Language learnability and language development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Plunkett, B. (1999). Targeting complex structure: periphrastic questions in child French. In Greenhill, A., Littlefield, H & Tano, C. (eds), Proceedings of the 23rd Boston University Conference on Language Development, 764–75. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
R Development Core Team (2014). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation and Statistical Computing. Vienna: R Development Core Team Online: <http://www.R-project.org/>..>Google Scholar
Radó, J. (1998). Discourse-linking and topicality: parsing wh-questions in English and Hungarian. Poster presented at the 11th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
Rizzi, L. (1990). Relativized minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Rizzi, L. (2004). Locality and the left periphery. In Belletti, A. (ed.), Structures and beyond: the cartography of syntactic structures (3) 223251. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Starke, M. (2001). Move dissolves into Merge: a theory of locality. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Geneva.Google Scholar
Thornton, R. (1995). Referentiality and wh-movement in child English: juvenile d-linkuency. Language Acquisition 4, 139–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trueswell, J. C. & Gleitman, L. R. (2007). Learning to parse and its implications for language acquisition. In Gaskell, G. (ed.), Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics, 635657. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Trueswell, J., Sekerina, I., Hill, N. & Logrip, M. (1999). The kindergarten-path effect: studying on-line sentence processing in young children. Cognition 73, 89134.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Trueswell, J. & Tanenhaus, M. (1994). Toward a lexicalist framework of constraint-based syntactic ambiguity resolution. In Clifton, C. & Frazier, L. (eds), Perspectives on sentence processing (pp. 155179). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Vasishth, S., Chen, Z., Li, Q. & Guo, G. (2013). Processing Chinese relative clauses: evidence for the subject-relative advantage. PloS ONE 8(10): e77006.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Volpato, F. & Adani, F. (2009). The subject/object relative clause asymmetry in hearing impaired children: evidence from a comprehension task. Proceedings of XXXV Incontro di Grammatica Generativa, 269–81. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.Google Scholar
Warren, T. & Gibson, E. (2002). The influence of referential processing on sentence complexity. Cognition 85, 79112.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Warren, T. & Gibson, E. (2005). Effects of NP type in reading cleft sentences in English. Language and Cognitive Processes 20, 751–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 173 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 23rd March 2017 - 24th November 2020. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-57c975d4c7-69ptw Total loading time: 3.974 Render date: 2020-11-24T15:29:24.911Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Tue Nov 24 2020 14:54:18 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": false, "relatedCommentaries": false, "subject": true, "clr": false, "languageSwitch": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Not committing has its advantages: facilitating children's comprehension of object filler–gap dependencies is one of them*
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Not committing has its advantages: facilitating children's comprehension of object filler–gap dependencies is one of them*
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Not committing has its advantages: facilitating children's comprehension of object filler–gap dependencies is one of them*
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *