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How Traditions Live and Die

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The Acquisition of Heritage Languages

By Silvina Montrul

"This work centres on the grammatical development of the heritage language and the language learning trajectory of heritage speakers, synthesizing recent experimental research."


Academic Paper


Title: The acquisition of German relative clauses: A case study*
Author: Silke Brandt
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Holger Diessel
Institution: Friedrich-Schiller-Universit├Ąt Jena
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Syntax
Subject Language: German
Abstract: This paper investigates the development of relative clauses in the speech of one German-speaking child aged 2 ; 0 to 5 ; 0. The earliest relative clauses we found in the data occur in topicalization constructions that are only a little different from simple sentences: they contain a single proposition, express the actor prior to other participants, assert new information and often occur with main-clause word order. In the course of the development, more complex relative constructions emerge, in which the relative clause is embedded in a fully-fledged main clause. We argue that German relative clauses develop in an incremental fashion from simple non-embedded sentences that gradually evolve into complex sentence constructions.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 35, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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