English-speaking children's comprehension of relative clauses: evidence for general-cognitive and language-specific constraints on development

J Psycholinguist Res. 2002 Nov;31(6):599-617. doi: 10.1023/a:1021265021141.


Children must possess some ability to process input in a meaningful manner to acquire language. The present study reports on data from an experiment investigating 3- to 5-year-old English-speaking children's understanding of restrictive relative clauses manipulated for embeddedness and focus. The results of the study showed that English-speaking children acquire right-branching before center-embedded structures. Comparisons made with data from Portuguese-speaking children suggest general-cognitive and language-specific constraints on development, and with respect to English, a "clause expansion" approach to processing in development.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Linguistics*
  • Male
  • Speech Perception*