Chapter 8. The acquisition of relative clauses in Cantonese and Mandarin

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We discuss three typological characteristics relevant to the acquisition of relative clauses (RCs) in Cantonese and Mandarin: (i) the prenominal position of RCs; (ii) the availability of an internally-headed analysis for Cantonese object RCs; and (iii) Chinese RCs as a subset of noun modifying constructions (NMCs). Acquisition studies suggest that Chinese differs from languages with post-nominal RCs, which show a robust advantage for subject-gapped over object-gapped RCs. For Cantonese, some studies suggest an object advantage, which may be explained by the surface identity of object RCs and SVO main clauses and/or the internally-headed analysis. Finally, Chinese RCs can be analyzed as a subset of NMCs in which a modifying clause is attached to the head noun based on semantic-pragmatic relations.


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