Chapter 7. The acquisition of relative clauses in Japanese

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This chapter discusses the acquisition of relative clauses in Japanese, a language with prenominal modification. It shows that the acquisition process of Japanese relative clauses is very different from that of languages with postnominal relatives, such as English. In regard to structural aspects, the production of relative clauses by Japanese-speaking children is not affected by the grammatical role of the head nouns in relative clauses, suggesting that a Japanese relative clause can be formed by attaching a simple sentence to the head noun regardless of grammatical relations. In regard to semantic-functional aspects, the relative clauses produced by Japanese-speaking children predominantly have stative/attributive predicates, and they have a function of “naming-reference”. I argue that Japanese relative clauses develop continuously from adjectival modification; possible explanations for this include the input that children are exposed to, which reflects typological characteristics of noun modification in Japanese.


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