How children's relatives solve a problem for minimalism

Dana Mcdaniel, Cecile Mckee, Judy B. Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Current work in syntax reexamines basic properties of movement. Under the minimalist assumptions of Chomsky (1995), movement is prohibited unless forced by grammatical considerations. From a set of comparable derivations, the one involving the least amount of moved material should therefore block other derivations. Within this framework, any cases of optional movement are problematic. We addressed this issue with experiments on stranding and pied-piping in relative clauses in 115 English learners, aged 3;5 to 11;11, and an adult control group. All subjects participated in an elicited production experiment and a grammaticality judgment experiment. Our findings suggest that pied-piping is possible in young children's grammars only when stranding is ruled out, as predicted by minimalism. We claim the children's responses represent the 'natural' grammar while the adults' responses reflect a prescriptive artifact. We also found a discrepancy in all subject groups between production and judgments of the genitive pied-piping construction. We account for this finding with Kayne's (1994) analysis of relative clauses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-334
Number of pages27
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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