On the adjectival interpretation of passives in acquisition

Translated title of the contribution: On the adjectival interpretation of passives in acquisition

Anna Gavarró, Xavier Parramon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Elsevier B.V. Borer and Wexler (1987) hypothesised that children interpret verbal passives as adjectival passives in a language like English in which the two passives are syntactic homophones. This has been assumed in the literature, although no direct evidence for it has ever been provided. Here we present two experiments, the first testing comprehension of short and long passives by Catalan-speaking children, the second testing whether such children indeed interpret short passives as adjectival. For this second experiment we capitalise on a particular grammatical property of Catalan: unlike in English, verbal and adjectival passives are not syntactic homophones, since verbal passives select auxiliary ser while ‘true’ adjectival passives (in Meltzer-Asscher's 2011 terms) select auxiliary estar – although the participle is identical in both passives. Our results show that Catalan-speaking children miscomprehend verbal passives until the age of 6 and assign them an active structure, in consonance with results from many other languages. Second, when made to choose between an eventive and a stative depiction upon hearing a short passive, they choose the stative depiction, consistent with the adjectival interpretation and incompatible with the verbal one (in spite of auxiliary mismatch). Thus we add to the findings in the literature for the first time direct evidence for the adjectival interpretation of verbal passives during the acquisition period.
Translated title of the contributionOn the adjectival interpretation of passives in acquisition
Original languageMultiple languages
Pages (from-to)11-24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Acquisition
  • Adjectival interpretation
  • Adjectival passive
  • Catalan
  • Passive
  • Verbal passive


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