Resumptive pronouns as a last resort when movement is impaired

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This study tested 14 school-age orally-trained children with hearing impairment who have a deficit in A-bar movement, manifested in an impaired comprehension of object relatives and topicalization structures. When they produce a grammatical object relative clause, they typically produce it with a resumptive pronoun, unlike their age-matched controls, who tend to produce object relatives with a gap. They also produce resumptive pronouns where only a gap is licit, in the highest embedded subject position in subject relatives. We interpret these results as supporting the claim that resumptive pronouns are a last resort when movement is blocked, not only because of islands in intact syntax, but also due to impairment. The participants also doubled the relative head in both subject- and object-relatives, producing ungrammatical sentences. The bearing of these errors on the copy theory of movement is discussed.


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