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Complex sentences: acquisition of syntactic connectives and the semantic relations they encode*

  • Lois Bloom (a1), Margaret Lahey (a1), Lois Hood (a1), Karin Lifter (a1) and Kathleen Fiess (a1)...

The acquisition of connective forms and the meaning relations between connected clauses in the development of complex sentences is described for four children from two to three years of age. The major results of the study include the developmental interactions between syntactic connectives and meaning relations, and between these interactions and the discourse environments in which they occurred. The first syntactic connective the children learned, and, was the most general: semantically, and was used to encode conjunction with all of the different conjunction meaning relations in the order Additive < Temporal < Causal < Adversative. Other connectives were semantically more specific, and were learned subsequently with different syntactic structures in the order Conjunction < Complementation < Relativization. These results are discussed in terms of FORM, relative linguistic complexity; CONTENT, the intersection of form with conceptual and semantic factors affecting acquisition; and USE, discourse cohesion.

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Margaret Lahey is Associate Professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York; Lois Hood is Assistant Professor at the Empire State College in New York City. We are grateful to Owen Whitby for advice on statistical problems. Preliminary reports of the results of this study were presented to the Conference on Applications of Observational/Ethological Methodology to the Study of Mental Retardation, June 1976, Lake Wilderness, Washington; a Colloquium at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; and the American Speech and Hearing Association Annual Convention, November 1977. Financial support for the research was provided by Research Grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Address for correspondence: Lois Bloom, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, N.Y. 10027, USA.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
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