Four-year-old Mandarin-speaking children's online comprehension of relative clauses

Wenchun Yang, Angel Chan (Corresponding Author), Franklin Chang, Evan Kidd

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


A core question in language acquisition is whether children's syntactic processing is experience-dependent and language-specific, or whether it is governed by abstract, universal syntactic machinery. We address this question by presenting corpus and on-line processing dat a from children learning Mandarin Chinese, a language that has been important in debates about the universality of parsing processes. The corpus data revealed that two different relative clause constructions in Mandarin are differentially used to modify syntactic subjects and objects. In the experiment, 4-year-old children's eye-movements were recorded as they listened to the two RC construction types (e.g., Can you pick up the pig that pushed the sheep?). A permutation analysis showed that children's ease of comprehension was closely aligned with the distributional frequencies, suggesting syntactic processing preferences are shaped by the input experience of these constructions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104103
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Children
  • Mandarin
  • On-line processing
  • Permutation analysis
  • Relative clauses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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