Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

How do language-specific characteristics affect the acquisition of different relative clause types? Evidence from Finnish*

  • MINNA KIRJAVAINEN (a1) (a2), EVAN KIDD (a3) (a4) and ELENA LIEVEN (a1)

Abstract

We report three studies (one corpus, two experimental) that investigated the acquisition of relative clauses (RCs) in Finnish-speaking children. Study 1 found that Finnish children's naturalistic exposure to RCs predominantly consists of non-subject relatives (i.e. oblique, object) which typically have inanimate head nouns. Study 2 tested children's comprehension of subject, object, and two types of oblique relatives. No difference was found in the children's performance on different structures, including a lack of previously widely reported asymmetry between subject and object relatives. However, children's comprehension was modulated by animacy of the head referent. Study 3 tested children's production of the same RC structures using sentence repetition. Again we found no subject–object asymmetry. The pattern of results suggested that distributional frequency patterns and the relative complexity of the relativizer contribute to the difficulty associated with particular RC structures.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Minna Kirjavainen, Language Education Institute, Foreign Languages Department, Osaka Gakuin University, 2-36-1 Kishibe-minami, Suita-Shi, Osaka 564-8511, Japan. e-mail: leimk@ogu.ac.jp.

Footnotes

Hide All
[*]

We would like to thank the nursery staff and children in Kotka, Finland, for their participation in the study, and the corpus child and her family for the data collection they conducted. We would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The study was funded by a post-doctoral research grant from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to the first author.

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.
Adani, F. (2011). Rethinking the acquisition of relative clauses in Italian: towards a grammatically based account. Journal of Child Language 38, 141–65.
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, 2751.
Baayen, H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: a practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J. & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language 59, 390412.
Bates, E. & MacWhinney, B. (1987). Competition, variation, and language learning. In MacWhinney, B. (ed.), Mechanisms of language acquisition, 157–93. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Bates, E. & MacWhinney, B. (1989). Functionalism and the competition model. In MacWhinney, B. & Bates, E. (eds), The crosslinguistic study of sentence processing, 376. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bates, D. M. & Maechler, M. (2010). lme4: linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 999375-33, online: <http://lme4.r-forge.r-project.org>.
Boyle, W., Lindell., A. K. & Kidd, E. (2013). Investigating the role of verbal working memory in young children's sentence comprehension. Language Learning 63, 211–42.
Brandt, S., Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2008). 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.
Cameron-Faulkner, T., Lieven, E. V. M. & Theakston, A. L. (2007). What part of no do children not understand? A usage-based account of multiword negation. Journal of Child Language 34, 251–82.
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.), Acquisition of relative clauses: processing, typology, and function, 197226. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Chen, J. & Shirai, Y. (2014). The acquisition of relative clauses in spontaneous child speech in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Child Language 20, 129.
Comrie, B. (1998). Rethinking the typology of relative clauses. Language Design 1, 5986.
Courtney, E. H. (2006). Adult and child production of Quechua relative clauses. First Language 26, 317–38.
de Villiers, J. G., Tager Flusberg, H. B., Hakuta, K. & Cohen, M. (1979). Children's comprehension of relative clauses. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 8, 499518.
Diessel, H. (2004). The acquisition of complex sentences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Diessel, H. (2009). On the role of frequency and similarity in the acquisition of subject and non-subject relative clauses. In Givón, T. & Shibatani, M. (eds), Syntactic complexity, 251–76. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2000). The development of relative clauses in spontaneous child speech. Cognitive Linguistics 11(1/2), 131–51.
Diessel, H. & Tomasello, M. (2005). A new look at the acquisition of relative clauses. Language 81, 882906.
Ellis, N. C. (2003). Constructions, chunking, and connectionism: the emergence of second language structure. In Doughty, C. & Long, M. H. (eds), Handbook of second language acquisition, 3368. Oxford: Blackwell.
Fox, B. A. & Thompson, S. A. (1990). A discourse explanation of the grammar of relative clauses in English conversation. Language 66, 297316.
Friedmann, N., Belletti, A. & Rizzi, L. (2009). Relativized relatives: types of intervention in the acquisition of A-bar dependencies. Lingua 119, 6788.
Goodluck, H. (2010). Object extraction is not suitable to Child Relativized Minimality. Lingua 120, 1516–21.
Gordon, P. C., Hendrick, R. & Johnson, M. (2001). Memory interference during language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 27, 1411–23.
Gordon, P. C., Hendrick, R. & Johnson, M. (2004). Effects of noun phrase type on sentence complexity. Journal of Memory and Language 51, 97114.
Guasti, M. T., Stavrakaki, S. & Arosio, F. (2012). Crosslinguistic differences and similarities in the acquisition of relative clauses: evidence from Greek and Italian. Lingua 122, 700–13.
Gutierrez-Mangado, M. J. (2011). Children's comprehension of relative clauses in an ergative language: the case of Basque. Language Acquisition 18, 176201.
Hakulinen, A., Vilkuna, M., Korhonen, R., Koivisto, V., Heinonen, T. R. & Alho, I. (2005). Iso suomen kielioppi [The large grammar of Finnish]. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.
Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., Cymerman, E. & Levine., S. (2001). Language input and child syntax. Cognitive Psychology 45, 337–74.
Jaeger, T. F. (2008). Categorical data analysis: away from ANOVAs (transformation of not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 59, 434–46.
Kas, B. & Lukács, Á. (2012). Processing relative clauses by Hungarian typically developing children. Language and Cognitive Processes 27, 500–38.
Kauppinen, A. (1977). Mikon kielioppia: 3 vuoden 4 kuukauden ikäisen pojan kielestä ja sen kehittymisestä vuoden aikana [Mikko's grammar: one 3 year and 4 month old boy's language and its development over a one year period]. Unpublished licentiate thesis, University of Helsinki, Department of Finnish Language.
Keenan, E. & Comrie, B. (1977). Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 8, 6399.
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., Lieven, E. V. M. & Tomasello, M. (2006). Examining the role of lexical frequency in the acquisition and processing of sentential complements. Cognitive Development 21, 93107.
Kirjavainen, M. & Lieven, E. (2011). The acquisition of relative clauses in Finnish; the effect of input. In Kidd, E. (ed.), Acquisition of relative clauses: processing, typology, and function, 107–39. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kirjavainen, M., Theakston, A. & Lieven, E. (2009). Can input explain children's me-for-I errors? Journal of Child Language 36, 1091–114.
Krajewski, G., Lieven, E. V. M. & Theakston, A. L. (2012). Productivity of a Polish child's inflectional noun morphology: a naturalistic study. Morphology 22, 934.
Krajewski, G., Theakston, A. L., Lieven, E. V. M. & Tomasello, M. (2011). How Polish children switch from one case to another when using novel nouns: challenges for models of inflectional morphology. Language and Cognitive Processes 26, 830–61.
Laaksonen, K. & Lieko, A. (2003). Suomen kielen äänne- ja muoto-oppi [Finnish language phonology and morphology]. Helsinki: Oy Finn Lectura Ab.
Lieko, A. (1992). The development of complex sentences: a case study of Finnish. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.
Lust, B., Flynn, S. & Foley, C. (1996). What children know about what they say: elicited imitation as a research method for assessing children's syntax. In McDaniel, D., McKee, C. & Smith Cairns, H. (eds), Methods for assessing children's syntax, 5577. London: MIT Press.
Lyytinen, P. (1999). Varhaisen kommunikaation ja kielenkehityksen arviointimenetelmä [Early communication and language development assessment method]. Jyväskylä: Niilo Mäki Instituutti & Jyväskylän Yliopiston Lapsitutimuskeskus.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES project. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Mak, W. M., Vonk, W. & Schriefers, H. (2002). The influence of animacy on relative clause processing. Journal of Memory and Language 47, 5068.
Mak, M. M., Vonk, W. & Schriefers, H. (2006). Animacy in processing relative clauses: the hikers that rocks crush. Journal of Memory and Languagem 54, 466490.
O'Grady, W. (2005). Syntactic carpentry: an emergentist approach to syntax. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
O'Grady, W. (2011). Relative clauses: processing and acquisition. In Kidd, E. (ed.), Acquisition of relative clauses: processing, typology, and function, 1338. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Ozeki, H. & Shirai, Y. (2007). The consequences of variation in the acquisition of relative clauses: an analysis of longitudinal production data from five Japanese children. In Matsumoto, Y., Oshima, D., Robinson, O. & Sells, P. (eds), Diversity in language: perspectives and implications, 243–70. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
Pine, J. & Lieven, E. (1997). Slot and frame patterns and the development of the determiner category. Applied Psycholinguistics 18, 123–38.
R Core Development Team (2012). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, online: <http://www.R-project.org/>.
Rahmany, R., Marefat, H. & Kidd, E. (2011). Persian-speaking children's acquisition of relative clauses. European Journal of Developmental Psychology 8, 367–88.
Rizzi, L. (1990). Relativized minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Rowland, C. (2007). Explaining errors in children's questions. Cognition 104 106–34.
Slobin, D. I. & Bever., T. G. (1982). A crosslinguistic study of word order and inflections. Cognition 12, 229–65.
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.
Toivanen, J. (1997). The acquisition of Finnish. In Slobin, D. (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition, vol. 4, 87182. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Publishers.
Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language; a usage-based theory of language acquisition. London: Harvard University Press.
Warren, T. & Gibson, E. (2002). The influence of referential processing on sentence complexity. Cognition 85, 79112.
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Kirjavainen supplementary material S1
Kirjavainen supplementary material

 PDF (138 KB)
138 KB

How do language-specific characteristics affect the acquisition of different relative clause types? Evidence from Finnish*

  • MINNA KIRJAVAINEN (a1) (a2), EVAN KIDD (a3) (a4) and ELENA LIEVEN (a1)

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