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Title: Acquisition of Relative Clauses in Lithuanian
Authors: Maciukaite, Simona
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Balto-Slavic Languages
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: Georgetown University
Abstract: This dissertation is an experimental investigation o f how Lithuanian children acquire restrictive relative clauses. Since no previous w ork has been devoted to the acquisition o f Lithuanian relatives, from the empirical point o f view, the results o f this research fill a gap in the literature. From the theoretical point o f view, the findings contribute to our understanding o f language acquisition and syntactic theory. A total o f three experiments were carried out w ith Lithuanian speaking children between the ages o f 3 and 7. For two o f the experiments, the data were gathered using an elicited production task in which appropriate contexts for elicitation o f relative clauses were supported w ith toy props (following Crain and Thornton 1998). The third experiment provided appropriate contextual support for relative clauses, but this experiment was an elicited im itation task. The findings show that children as young as 3 produce relative clauses using the relative pronoun ‘kuris’. This is a departure from the findings o f experimental studies carried out on other languages, where the relative pronoun was shown not to be used by children until age 6. M oreover, the results indicate that children produce a variety o f relative clauses; some are target-like and some are not, but all o f them represent grammatical options attested in some natural language. The differences concern the position o f the head noun w ith respect to the relative pronoun: whereas in adult language the head noun m ust precede the relative pronoun, in child language it may follow it, and in fact it may occur in more than one position in the clause. Following K ayne’s (1994) raising analysis o f relative clauses and Chom sky’s (1995) copy theory o f movement, I argue that children’s grammar differs from adults’ gramm ar in two respects. It allows the head noun to move out o f the DP that contains it (headed by ‘kuris’) and remain inside the IP; and, instead o f deleting the lowest copies o f a moved element, it exhibits variation in which copies get deleted. The data and the analysis illustrate the im portant role that studies o f acquisition play in uncovering the nature o f the hum an grammatical system.
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