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Academic Paper


Title: Relative Clauses in Cantonese-English Bilingual Children: Typological Challenges and Processing Motivations
Author: Virginia Yip
Institution: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Author: Stephen Matthews
Homepage: http://www.hku.hk/linguist/staff/sjm.htm
Institution: University of Hong Kong
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Syntax
Subject Language: Chinese, Yue
English
Abstract: Findings from a longitudinal study of bilingual children acquiring Cantonese and English pose a challenge to the noun phrase accessibility hierarchy (NPAH; Keenan & Comrie, 1977), which predicts that object relatives should not be acquired before subject relatives. In the children's Cantonese, object relatives emerged earlier than or simultaneously with subject relatives, and in their English, prenominal relatives based on Cantonese emerged first, with object relatives followed by subject relatives. These findings are discussed in light of findings on the typology and acquisition of relative clauses (RCs) and the underlying processing motivations of the NPAH. Prenominal object relatives in the bilingual children's Cantonese and English have the same word order as main clauses and can be analyzed as internally headed RCs. The reconceptualization of RCs as attributive clauses (Comrie, 1998a, 1998b, 2002) is supported by children's early RCs lacking a strict grammatical relationship between the head noun and the predicate. Furthermore, as observed by Diessel and Tomasello (2000, rid="ref012">2005) for English, bilingual children's earliest RCs consist of isolated noun phrases (NPs). The early object relatives produced by bilingual children are therefore essentially NPs with the linear order of a main clause, resulting in a configuration that is conducive to early production.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 29, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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