Prochaine séance du séminaire Théories et données linguistiques

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On the delay in the production and comprehension of relative clauses in child heritage Romanian

Larisa AVRAM, University of Bucharest

 
Direct object relatives have been shown to be acquired later than subject relatives in a significant number of languages. The comprehension of direct object relatives has been argued to be even more delayed than their production. One possible cause of this production-comprehension asymmetry was linked, among other factors, to the lower input frequency of these relatives, which would affect comprehension to a higher degree than production.
A growing number of studies revealed that vulnerable structures in monolingual acquisition may be even more vulnerable in heritage languages. Against this background, two predictions can be made: (i) direct object relative clause production should be severely delayed in heritage languages, and (ii) under conditions of significantly reduced input, as is the case in heritage language acquisition, comprehension of object relatives should be more vulnerable than their production.
These two predictions are tested against data from child heritage Romanian in a French as a majority language context. I present results from one elicited production task and one comprehension task. 36 child heritage speakers of Romanian (ages 4;0-13;02) and 36 monolingual Romanian children (ages 5;0 – 12;06) completed a production task. 60 child heritage speakers of Romanian (ages 3;10 – 13;07) completed a picture-selection matching task.
The results indicate that (i) relative clauses are produced later by child heritage speakers; but there is an increase so that at age 10, the production rate is similar to the one found with monolinguals; (ii) comprehension of object relatives is more delayed than their production. But the delay is selective; it affects only object relatives with a post-verbal subject. This asymmetry between object relatives with a pre-verbal and with a post-verbal subject is tentatively argued to be an effect of dominant language interference, not of the low frequency of object relatives in the input.