ERW (CARU): Acquisition of (non-)restrictive relative clauses

Head of the project: Prof. Dr. Petra Schulz
Staff: Corinna Trabandt
Emanuela Sanfelici
Alexander Thiel

Short description:

With two sets of language production and comprehension experiments, this project explores the acquisition of restrictive and appositive relative clauses in German. The aim is to close two research gaps in our understanding of the interaction between core formal and functional properties. Despite the wide range of studies of acquisition of relative clauses, the question of whether children are able to distinguish restrictive from appositive relative clauses has not often been considered. Furthermore, research on relative clauses in German has been restricted mainly to the process of production.

With respect to formal properties, the project seeks answers to the following questions: Through what stages of acquisition do German-speaking children pass as they begin to produce relative clause structures? Are these learners sensitive to formal properties that distinguish the two types of relative clauses, such as verb position and order constraints? With respect to functional properties, the project seeks to ascertain when the semantic-pragmatic functions of restriction and apposition are actually acquired. Also, to what extent do prototypical functions of relative clauses play a role, and is there a preference for one specific function? Furthermore, the project will examine how the acquisition of formal properties (e.g. verb order) interacts with restriction/non-restriction, and when and under which circumstances verb-second and verb-last relative clauses get assigned different functions.

Detailed project description as pdf-file (German)