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The acquisition of finite complement clauses in English: A corpus-based analysis

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Diessel,  Holger
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Tomasello,  Michael
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Diessel, H., & Tomasello, M. (2001). The acquisition of finite complement clauses in English: A corpus-based analysis. Cognitive Linguistics, 12(2), 97-142. doi:10.1515/cogl.12.2.97.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-091F-E
Abstract
This article examines the development of finite complement clauses in the speech of seven English-speaking children aged 1;2 to 5;2. It shows that in most of children's complex utterances that seem to include a finite complement clause, the main clause does not express a full proposition; rather, it functions as an epistemic marker, attention getter, or marker of illocutionary force. The whole construction thus contains only a single proposition expressed by the apparent complement clause. As children grow older, some of the “main clauses” become more substantial and new complement-taking verbs emerge that occur with truly embedded complement clauses. However, since the use of these constructions is limited to only a few verbs, we argue that they are not yet licensed by a general schema or rule; rather, they are “constructional islands” organized around individual verbs.