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Höhle, Barbara ; Schmitz, Michaela ; Müller, Anja ; Weissenborn, Jürgen
The recognition of discontinuous verbal dependencies by German 19-month-olds : evidence for lexical and structural influences on children’s early processing capacities
Kurzfassung auf EnglischRecent work has shown that English-learning 18-month-olds can detect the relationship between discontinuous morphemes such as is and -ing in Grandma is always running (Gomez, 2002; Santelmann & Jusczyk, 1998) but only at a maximum
of 3 intervening syllables. In this article we examine the tracking of discontinuous dependencies in children acquiring German. Due to freer word order, German allows for greater distances between dependent elements and a greater syntactic variety of the intervening elements than English does. The aim of this study was to investigate whether factors other than distance may influence the child’s capacity to recognize discontinuous elements. Our findings provide evidence that children’s recognition capacities are affected not only by distance but also by their ability to linguistically analyze the material intervening between the dependent elements. We speculate that this result supports the existence of processing mechanisms that reduce a discontinuous relation to a local one based on subcategorization relations.
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