The acquisition of Catalan relatives: Structure and processing

Gavarró Anna, Cunill Arnau, Míriam Muntané, Reguant Marc

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Research in various languages indicates that children interpret subject relatives in an adult-like manner substantially earlier than they interpret object relatives. This asymmetry may be attributed to processing of the corresponding syntactic structures, as in Gibson (1998), Morrill (2000). We address this basic asymmetry by considering the acquisition of Catalan relatives, both for comprehension and production. The interpretation of Catalan relatives was investigated by Gavarró et al. (2012) and the results show the well-known asymmetry in comprehension between subject and object relatives. The elicitation experiment, designed by Friedmann et al. (in preparation), was run with twenty Catalan-speaking 5-year-olds. Children produced 98% of subjects as adults do, while they produced fewer object relatives. Briefly, for our results the parallelism between comprehension and production holds. We propose to account for the findings by adopting an analysis based on Morrill's (2000) metric of syntactic complexity, an implementation of Gibson's (1998) insight that processing difficulties increase as a function of the number of unresolved dependencies that the speaker must keep in memory. Gibson's and Morrill's proposals are neutral with respect to whether linguistic knowledge is put to use in production or comprehension: here we claim that, in fact, for the empirical domain considered, production and comprehension are equally taxed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-201
JournalRevue Roumaine de Linguistique
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2012


  • Acquisition
  • Catalan
  • Categorial grammar
  • Complexity metric
  • Comprehension
  • Production
  • Relative clauses


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