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Rethinking Verb Second$
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Rebecca Woods and Sam Wolfe

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198844303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198844303.001.0001

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The role of variation of verb placement in the input

The role of variation of verb placement in the input

Evidence from the acquisition of Verb Second and verb-final German relative clauses

Chapter:
(p.790) 34 The role of variation of verb placement in the input
Source:
Rethinking Verb Second
Author(s):

Emanuela Sanfelici

Corinna Trabandt

Petra Schulz

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198844303.003.0034

This chapter focuses on the acquisition of verb placement in German relative clauses (RCs). Under specific licensing conditions RCs allow for variation in word order: The finite verb can surface either in final or in second position; instances of the latter position are referred to as iV2 structures. To address the question of how children deal with this alternation in the Primary Linguistic Data, a picture-supported delayed-imitation task was developed requiring the repetition of iV2 structures and verb-final RCs, and 23 monolingual German-speaking children aged 3;0 to 3;9 and 21 adults were tested. Children repeated significantly more V-final than iV2 structures correctly and exhibited a robust preference for verb-final RCs over iV2 structures, changing verb placement from V2 to verb-final significantly more often than from verb-final to V2. Adults repeated both verb-final RCs and iV2 structures target-like. It is argued that in the case of variation in the primary linguistic data children opt for the underspecified value that stands in a superset relationship with the other variant. It is proposed that children’s preference for verb-final verb placement, i.e. the superset value, results from the interplay between two factors: (a) an economy-based learning strategy and (b) an early underspecified COMP domain.

Keywords:   verb placement, variation, relative clause, German, acquisition

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