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Relative clauses in French children's narrative texts

  • HARRIET JISA (a1) and SOPHIE KERN (a1)


This study investigates the use of relative clauses in French children's narrative monologues. Narrative texts were collected from French-speaking monolinguals in four age groups (five, seven, ten years and adults). Twenty subjects from each group were asked to tell a story based on a picture book consisting of twenty-four images without text (Frog, Where are you?). Relative constructions were coded following the categories defined by Dasinger & Toupin (1994) into two main functional classes: general discourse and narrative functions. The results show that the use of relative clauses in general discourse functions precedes their use in more specific narrative functions. An analysis of textual connectivity (Berman & Slobin, 1994) in one episode reveals that children and adults differ in their choice of preferred structures. The results also show that children use fewer transitive predicates in relative clauses than do adults. Transitive verbs are essential for advancing the narrative plot (Hopper & Thompson, 1980). While subject relative clauses are acquired early and used frequently, the development of their multifunctional use in diverse narrative functions extends well beyond childhood.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Harriet Jisa, Dynamique du langage (UMR 5596 – CNRS), Maison Rhône-Alpes des Sciences de l'Homme, 14, avenue Berthelot, 69363 Lyon Cedex 07, France, e-mail;


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Portions of this study were presented at the First Lisbon Meeting on Child Language with Special Reference to Romance Languages, Faculdade de Letras, Universidate de Lisboa, 14–17 June 1994. The authors would like to express their gratitude to Ruth Berman for her numerous remarks and suggestions on earlier versions and to two anonymous reviewers for their extensive comments on many aspects of this work.


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Relative clauses in French children's narrative texts

  • HARRIET JISA (a1) and SOPHIE KERN (a1)


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