Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Four-year-old Cantonese-speaking children's online processing of relative clauses: a permutation analysis*

  • ANGEL CHAN (a1), WENCHUN YANG (a2), FRANKLIN CHANG (a3) and EVAN KIDD (a4)

Abstract

We report on an eye-tracking study that investigated four-year-old Cantonese-speaking children's online processing of subject and object relative clauses (RCs). Children's eye-movements were recorded as they listened to RC structures identifying a unique referent (e.g. “Can you pick up the horse that pushed the pig?”). Two RC types, classifier (CL) and ge3 RCs, were tested in a between-participants design. The two RC types differ in their syntactic analyses and frequency of occurrence, providing an important point of comparison for theories of RC acquisition and processing. A permutation analysis showed that the two structures were processed differently: CL RCs showed a significant object-over-subject advantage, whereas ge3 RCs showed the opposite effect. This study shows that children can have different preferences even for two very similar RC structures within the same language, suggesting that syntactic processing preferences are shaped by the unique features of particular constructions both within and across different linguistic typologies.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Addresses for correspondence: Angel Chan, Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, HONG KONG. e-mail: angel.ws.chan@polyu.edu.uk; Evan Kidd, Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Acton 2601, ACT, AUSTRALIA. e-mail: evan.kidd@anu.edu.au

Footnotes

Hide All
[*]

This research was supported by 1-ZVB8 (PI: Chan), awarded by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and CE140100041 (CI: Kidd), awarded by the Australian Research Council. Angel Chan is a member of the The Hong Kong Polytechnic University – Peking University Research Centre on Chinese Linguistics and its support is gratefully acknowledged. Franklin Chang and Evan Kidd are members of the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD), and the support of the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/L008955/1] is gratefully acknowledged. Data and R code for our analyses can be found at <http://sites.google.com/site/sentenceproductionmodel/permutationanalysis>. We thank Elizabeth Wonnacott and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Abbot-Smith, K. & Behrens, H. (2006). How known constructions influence the acquisition of other constructions: the German passive and future constructions. Cognitive Science 30, 9951026.
Ambridge, B., Kidd, E., Rowland, C. F. & Theakston, A. L. (2015). The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition. Journal of Child Language 42, 239–73.
Aoun, J. & Li, A. Y.-H. (2003). Essays on the representational and derivational nature of grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C. & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language 68, 255–78.
Bates, D. & Maechler, M. (2010). Matrix: sparse and dense matrix classes and methods. Rpackage version 0.999375–39, online: <http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=Matrix>.
Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I. & Schlesewsky, M. (2009). The role of prominence information in the real-time comprehension of transitive constructions: a cross-linguistic approach. Language and Linguistics Compass 3, 1958.
Brandt, S., Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2008). The acquisition of German relative clauses: a case study. Journal of Child Language 35, 325–48.
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, 539–70.
Bretz, F., Hothorn, T. & Westfall, P. H. (2011). Multiple comparisons using R. [electronic book]. Boca Raton, FL; Chapman & Hall / CRC.
Carreiras, M., Duñabeitia, J. A., Vergara, M., de la Cruz-Pavía, I. & Laka, I. (2010). Subject relative clauses are not universally easier to process: evidence from Basque. Cognition 115, 7992.
Chan, A., Matthews, S. & Yip, V. (2011). The acquisition of relative clauses in Cantonese and Mandarin. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives 197225. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Chang, F. (2009). Learning to order words: a connectionist model of heavy NP shift and accessibility effects in Japanese and English. Journal of Memory and Language 61, 374–97.
Chen, J. D. & Shirai, Y. (2015). The acquisition of relative clauses in spontaneous child speech in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Child Language 42, 394422.
Cheng, L. L. S. & Sybesma, R. (2009). De as an underspecified classifier: first explorations. Yuyánxué lùncóng 39, 123–56.
Cheung, C. C. H. & Li, H. Z. (2015). Inner and outer modifiers in Mandarin and Cantonese. Linguistic Sciences 14, 449–58.
Corrêa, L. M. S. (1995). An alternative assessment of children's comprehension of relative clauses. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 24, 183203.
Courtney, E. H. (2006). Adult and child production of Quechua relative clauses. First Language 26, 317–38.
Courtney, E. H. (2011). Learning to produce Quechua relative clauses. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives 141–72. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Dautriche, I., Swingley, D. & Christophe, A. (2015). Learning novel phonological neighbors: syntactic category matters. Cognition 143, 7786.
Diessel, H. (2007). Frequency effects in language acquisition, language use, and diachronic change. New Ideas in Psychology 25, 108–27.
Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2000). The development of relative clauses in spontaneous child speech. Cognitive Linguistics 11, 131–52.
Dryer, M. S. (2005). Order of subject, object, and verb. In Haspelmath, M., Dryer, M. S., Gil, D. & Comrie, B. (eds), The world atlas of language structures, pp. 330–3. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eklund, A., Nichols, T. E. & Knutsson, H. (2016). Cluster failure: why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, 7900–5.
Fitz, H., Chang, F. & Christiansen, M. H. (2011). A connectionist account of the acquisition and processing of relative clauses. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives, pp. 3960. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Fletcher, P., Leung, S. C.-S., Stokes, S. F. & Weizman, Z. O. (2000). Cantonese pre-school language development: a guide. Hong Kong: Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.
Frazier, L. (1987). Syntactic processing: evidence from Dutch. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 5, 519–59.
Friedmann, N., Belletti, A. & Rizzi, L. (2009). Relativized relatives: types of intervention in the acquisition of A-bar dependencies. Lingua 119, 6788.
Gennari, S. P. & MacDonald, M. C. (2008). Semantic indeterminacy in object relative clauses. Journal of Memory and Language 58, 161–87.
Gibson, E. (1998). Linguistic complexity: locality of syntactic dependencies. Cognition 68, 176.
Groppe, D. M., Urbach, T. P. & Kutas, M. (2011). Mass univariate analysis of event-related brain potentials/fields I: a critical tutorial review. Psychophysiology 48, 1711–25.
Gutierrez-Mangado, M. J. (2011). Children's comprehension of relative clauses in an ergative language: the case of Basque. Language Acquisition 18, 176201.
Hakuta, K. (1981). Grammatical description versus configurational arrangement in language acquisition: the case of relative clauses in Japanese. Cognition 9, 197236.
Hale, J. (2006). Uncertainty about the rest of the sentence. Cognitive Science 30, 643–72.
Hamburger, H. & Crain, S. (1982). Relative acquisition. In Kuczaj, S. (ed.), Language development 2 245–74. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hawkins, J. A. (2004). Efficiency and complexity in grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hohenstein, S. (2013). The remef function for R. Online: <https://github.com/hohenstein/remef>
Hu, S., Gavarró, A., Vernice, M. & Guasti, M. T. (2016). The acquisition of Chinese relative clauses: contrasting two theoretical approaches. Journal of Child Language 43(1), 121.
Hutton, I. & Kidd, E. (2011). Structural priming in comprehension of relative clause sentences: in search of a frequency x regularity interaction. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives, 227–42. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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.
Jäger, L., Chen, Z., Li, Q., Lin, C. J. C. & Vasishth, S. (2015). The subject-relative advantage in Chinese: evidence for expectation-based processing. Journal of Memory and Language 79, 97120.
Jeon, K. S. & Kim, H. Y. (2007). Development of relativization in Korean as a foreign language: the noun phrase accessibility hierarchy in head-internal and head-external relative clauses. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 29, 253–76.
Keenan, E. & Comrie, B. (1977). Noun phrase accessibility and Universal Grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 8, 6399.
Kelly, B. F., Kidd, E. & Wigglesworth, G. (2015). Indigenous children's language: acquisition, preservation and evolution of language in minority contexts. First Language 4/5, 279285.
Kidd, E. (Ed.) (2011). The acquisition of relative clauses: processing, typology and function. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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.
Kidd, E., Chan, A. & Chiu, J. (2015). Cross-linguistic influence in simultaneous Cantonese–English bilingual children's comprehension of relative clauses. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 18, 438–52.
Kidd, E., Stewart, A. & Serratrice, L. (2011). Children do not overcome lexical biases where adults do: the role of the referential scene in garden-path recovery. Journal of Child Language 38, 222–34.
Kim, C. E. & O'Grady, W. (2016). Asymmetries in children's production of relative clauses: data from English and Korean. Journal of Child Language 43(5), 1038–71.
Kirjavainen, M., Kidd, E. & Lieven, E. (2017). How do language-specific characteristics affect the acquisition of different relative clause types? Evidence from Finnish. Journal of Child Language 44, 120–57.
Kirjavainen, M. & Lieven, E. (2011). Acquisition of relative clauses in Finnish. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives, 107–41. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Lau, E. (2016). The role of resumptive pronouns in Cantonese relative clause acquisition. First Language 36, 355–82.
Lee, T. H. T., Wong, C. H., Leung, C. S., Man, P., Cheung, A., Szeto, K. & Wong, C. S. P. (eds) (1994). The development of grammatical competence in Cantonese-speaking children: report of Hong Kong RGC AQ9 Ear-marked grant, 1991–1994. Unpublished manuscript, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong.
Levy, R. (2008). Expectation-based syntactic comprehension. Cognition 106, 1126–77.
Liu, Z. J. (2015). The development of noun-modifying constructions in child Mandarin. Unpublished PhD thesis, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong.
MacDonald, M. C. (2013). How language production shapes language form and comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology 4, 226.
MacDonald, M. C. & Christiansen, M. (2002). Reassessing working memory: comment on Just and Carpenter (1992) and Waters and Caplan (1999). Psychological Review 109, 3554.
Maris, E. (2012). Statistical testing in electrophysiological studies. Psychophysiology 49, 549–65.
Maris, E. & Oostenveld, R. (2007). Nonparametric statistical testing of EEG- and MEG-data. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 164, 177–90.
Matthews, S. & Yip, V. (2001). The structure and stratification of relative clauses in contemporary Cantonese. In Chappell, M. (ed.), Sinitic grammar: synchronic and diachronic perspectives, 266–81. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
O'Grady, W. (2011). Relative clauses: processing and acquisition. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives, 1338. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ozeki, H. (2011). The acquisition of relative clauses in Japanese. In Kidd, E. (ed.), The acquisition of relative clauses: functional and typological perspectives, 173–94. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ozeki, H. & Shirai, Y. (2007). Does the Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy predict the difficulty order in the acquisition of Japanese relative clauses. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 29, 169–96.
R Core Team (2014). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Online: <http://www.R-project.org>.
Rahmany, R., Marefat, H. & Kidd, E. (2014). Resumptive elements aid comprehension of object relative clauses: evidence from Persian. Journal of Child Language 41, 937–48.
Rizzi, L. (1990). Relativized Minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Simpson, A. (2002). On the status of ‘modifying’ DE and the structure of the Chinese DP. In Tang, S.-W. & Liu, C.-S. L. (eds), On the formal way to Chinese languages. pp. 74101. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
Snedeker, J. & Trueswell, J. C. (2004). The developing constraints on parsing decisions: the role of lexical-biases and referential scenes in child and adult sentence processing. Cognitive Psychology 49, 238–99.
Suzuki, T. (2011). A case-marking cue for filler–gap dependencies in children's relative clauses in Japanese. Journal of Child Language 38, 1084–95.
Traxler, M. J., Morris, R. K. & Seely, R. E. (2002). Processing subject and object relative clauses: evidence from eye movements. Journal of Memory and Language 47, 6990.
Trueswell, J. C., Sekerina, I., Hill, N. M. & Logrip, M. N. (1999). The kindergarten path effect: studying on-line sentence processing in young children. Cognition 73, 89134.
Vasishth, S., Chen, Z., Li, Q. & Guo, G. (2013). Processing Chinese relative clauses: evidence for the subject-relative advantage. PloS One 8, e77006.
Von Holzen, K. & Mani, N. (2012). Language nonselective lexical access in bilingual toddlers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 113, 569–86.
Weckerly, J. & Kutas, M. (1999). An electrophysiological analysis of animacy effects in the processing of object relative sentences. Psychophysiology 36, 559–70.
Wells, J. B., Christiansen, M. H., Race, D. S., Acheson, D. J. & MacDonald, M. C. (2009). Experience and sentence processing: statistical learning and relative clause comprehension. Cognitive Psychology 58, 250–71.
Xue, N., Xia, F., Chiou, F. D. & Palmer, M. (2005). The Penn Chinese TreeBank: phrase structure annotation of a large corpus. Natural Language Engineering 11, 207–38.
Yamashita, H. & Chang, F. (2001). ‘Long before short’ preference in the production of a head-final language. Cognition 81, B4555.
Yip, V. & Matthews, S. (2007). Relative clauses in Cantonese–English bilingual children: typological challenges and processing motivations. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 29, 277300.
Yun, J., Chen, Z., Hunter, T., Whitman, J. & Hale, J. (2015). Uncertainty in processing relative clauses across East Asian languages. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 24, 113–48.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Four-year-old Cantonese-speaking children's online processing of relative clauses: a permutation analysis*

  • ANGEL CHAN (a1), WENCHUN YANG (a2), FRANKLIN CHANG (a3) and EVAN KIDD (a4)

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.