Young children’s production of head-final relative clauses: Elicited production data from Chinese children

  • Chun-Chieh Natalie Hsu
  • Gabriella Hermon
  • Andrea Zukowski


This study examines young children’s production of head-final relative clauses (RCs) in Chinese. Three different hypotheses (the Canonical Word Order Hypothesis, the Filler-gap Linear Distance Hypothesis, and the Structural Distance Hypothesis) have been proposed to account for the subject–object asymmetry found in children’s performance with head-initial RCs in English. The structure of Chinese head-final RCs is minimally different from that of English head-initial RCs and thus provides an ideal case to examine the effect of different factors that are confounded in English. Our findings fail to support the Canonical Word Order Hypothesis and the Filler-gap Linear Distance Hypothesis. Instead, we suggest that it is the gap position in the hierarchical structure that affects children’s production performance with subject-gapped and object-gapped RCs. Our findings also suggest that Mandarin Chinese does not belong to the group of East Asian languages which has been argued to have an acquisition pattern for RCs that is different from the one found in European languages. In addition, the cross-linguistic comparison of production errors suggests that the occurrence of the head noun in the sequential order of the production string affects the type of errors children make during the sentence production process.


Chinese Head-final RCs Sentence production First language acquisition 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chun-Chieh Natalie Hsu
    • 1
  • Gabriella Hermon
    • 2
  • Andrea Zukowski
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Foreign Languages and LiteratureNational Tsing Hua UniversityHsinchuTaiwan, ROC
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of MarylandCollage ParkUSA

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