&#8216;<i>Starting small</i>&#8217; effects in the acquisition of early relative constructions in Spanish

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This paper builds on previous Usage-based accounts of developing sentence complexity (Diessel 2004; Diessel &amp; Tomasello 2000, 2001), considering early relative constructions (RC) in Spanish. RCs development shows various &#8220;<i>starting small</i>&#8221; processes (Elman 1993): Most CRs show no embedding; they are dialogical co-constructional results or take an absolute position and not intonation integration to any verbal frame. When embedded, constructional frames are lexically biased with an open slot for Head RC insertion. CRs internal structure is mostly similar to independent clause type, with no gap nor genuine &#8216;relative&#8217; function for the relative pronoun. In sum, CRs show an exemplar based acquisition and individually preferred constructional frames. All these phenomena point towards a non linear, experience based learning, affected by frequency and oriented by function.


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