Production of relative clauses in monolingual Turkish children

Research on the production of relative clauses (RCs) has shown that in English, although children start using intransitive RCs at an earlier age, more complex, bi-propositional object RCs appear later (Hamburger & Crain, 1982; Diessel and Tomasello, 2005), and children use resumptive pronouns both in acceptable and unacceptable ways (McKee, McDaniel, & Snedeker, 1998; McKee & McDaniel, 2001). To date, it is unclear whether or not the same picture emerges in Turkish, a language with an SOV word-order and overt case marking. Some studies suggested that subject RCs are more frequent in adults and children (Slobin, 1986) and yield a better performance than object RCs (Özcan, 1996), but others reported the opposite pattern (Ekmekçi, 1990). Our study addresses this issue in Turkish children and adults, and uses participants’ errors to account for the emerging asymmetry between subject and object RCs. 37 5-to-8 year old monolingual Turkish children and 23 adult controls participated in a novel elicitation task involving cards, each consisting of four different pictures (see Figure 1). There were two sets of cards, one for the participant and one for the researcher. The former had animals with accessories (e.g., a hat) whereas the latter had no accessories. Participants were instructed to hold their card without showing it to the researcher and describe the animals with particular accessories. This prompted the use of subject and object RCs. The researcher had to identify the animals in her card (see Figure 2). A preliminary repeated measures ANOVA with the factor Group (pre-school, primary-school children) showed no differences between the groups in the use of RCs (p>.1), who were therefore collapsed into one for further analyses. A repeated measures ANOVA with the factors Group (children, adults) and RC-Type (Subject, Object) showed that children used fewer RCs than adults (F(1,58)=7.54, p<.01), and both groups used fewer object than subject RCs (F(1,58)=22.46, p<.001), but there was no Group by RC-Type interaction (see Figure 3). A similar ANOVA on the rate of grammatical RCs showed a main effect of Group (F(1,58)=77.25, p<.001), a main effect of RC-Type (F(1,58)=66.33, p<.001), and an interaction of Group by RC-Type (F(1,58)=64.6, p<.001) (see Figure 4). Children made more errors than adults in object RCs (F(1,58)=87.01, p<.001), and children made more errors in object compared to subject RCs (F(1,36)=106.35, p<.001), but adults did not show this asymmetry. The error analysis revealed that children systematically avoided the object-relativizing morpheme –DIK, which requires possessive agreement with the genitive-marked subject. They also used resumptive pronouns and resumptive full-DPs in the extraction site similarly to English children (see Figure 5). These findings are in line with Slobin (1986) and Özcan (1996). Children’s errors suggest that they avoid morphosyntactic complexity of object RCs and try to preserve the canonical word order by inserting resumptive pronouns in the extraction site. Finally, cross-linguistic similarity in the acquisition of RCs in typologically different languages suggests a higher accessibility of subject RCs both at the structural (Keenan and Comrie, 1977) and conceptual level (Bock and Warren, 1986).
Citation Formats
D. Özge, T. Marinis, and D. Zeyrek Bozşahin, “Production of relative clauses in monolingual Turkish children,” presented at the Proceedings Supplement to the 34th Boston UniversityConference on Language Development (BUCLD, 34), 6 - 08 November 2009, 2010, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: