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Languages 2018, 3(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages3010006

On Recursive Modification in Child L1 French

1
Department of French Studies, University of Toronto, 50 St Joseph Street, Toronto M5S 1J4, ON, Canada
2
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 91 Charles Street West, Toronto ON M5S 1K5, Canada
3
Cognitive Science Program, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto M5S 3G3, ON, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 December 2017 / Revised: 21 February 2018 / Accepted: 5 March 2018 / Published: 16 March 2018
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Abstract

This paper investigates nominal recursive modification (RM) in the L1 acquisition of French. Although recursion is considered the fundamental property of human languages, recursive self-embedding is found to be difficult for children in a variety of languages and constructions. Despite these challenges, the acquisition of RM proves to be resilient; acquirable even under severely degraded input conditions. From a minimalist perspective on the operations of narrow syntax, recursive embedding is essentially the application of a sequence of Merge operations (Chomsky 1995; Trotzke and Zwart 2014); therefore, given the universality of Merge, we do not expect to find cross-linguistic differences in how difficult recursion is. But if the challenging nature of recursion stems from factors which might differ from language to language, we expect different outcomes cross-linguistically. We compare new data from French to existing English data (Pérez-Leroux et al. 2012) in order to examine to what extent language-specific properties of RM structures determine the acquisition path. While children’s production differs significantly from their adult’s counterparts, we find no differences between French-speaking and English-speaking children. Our findings suggest that the challenging nature of recursion does not stem from the grammar itself and that what shapes the acquisition path is the interaction between universal properties of language and considerations not specific to language, namely computational efficiency. View Full-Text
Keywords: recursion; complexity; Determiner Phrases; Noun Phrase modification; L1 acquisition; French syntax; minimalism recursion; complexity; Determiner Phrases; Noun Phrase modification; L1 acquisition; French syntax; minimalism
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Roberge, Y.; Pérez-Leroux, A.T.; Frolova, A. On Recursive Modification in Child L1 French. Languages 2018, 3, 6.

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