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6 - Relative clauses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Holger Diessel
Affiliation:
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany
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Summary

Like complement clauses, relative clauses emerge from simple nonembedded sentences. The earliest relative clauses occur in presentational constructions that consist of a copular clause and a relative clause including an intransitive verb. Although these constructions are biclausal they denote only a single situation. The presentational copular clause does not serve as an independent assertion; rather, it functions to establish a referent in focus position, making it available for the predication expressed in the relative clause. The whole sentence thus contains only a single proposition, leading children frequently to conflate the two clauses: many of the early relative constructions are syntactic blends (or amalgams) in which the relative clause and the matrix clause are merged into a single syntactic unit. As children grow older, they begin to use more complex relative constructions. In contrast to the early presentational relatives, the relative constructions produced by older children denote two situations in two full-fledged clauses. Based on these data I argue that complex sentences including relative clauses develop via clause expansion: starting from presentational relatives that denote a single situation, children gradually learn the use of complex relative constructions in which two situations are expressed by two separate full clauses.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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  • Relative clauses
  • Holger Diessel, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany
  • Book: The Acquisition of Complex Sentences
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486531.006
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  • Relative clauses
  • Holger Diessel, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany
  • Book: The Acquisition of Complex Sentences
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486531.006
Available formats
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To send content items to your account, please 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 account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Relative clauses
  • Holger Diessel, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany
  • Book: The Acquisition of Complex Sentences
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486531.006
Available formats
×