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Comprehension asymmetries in language acquisition: a test for Relativized Minimality*


Cross-linguistic studies have shown that typically developing children have difficulties comprehending non-canonical structures. These findings have been interpreted within the Relativized Minimality (RM) approach, according to which local relations cannot be established between two terms of a dependency if an intervening element possesses similar morphosyntactic features. In an extension of RM, Friedmann, Belletti, and Rizzi (2009) suggested that lexical NP restriction is the source of minimality effects in non-canonical sentences. The present study aimed at investigating whether the predictions of their account can be confirmed in Greek. Our results indicate that although lexical NP restriction is a crucial factor in generating minimality effects, it is not always sufficient to account for the comprehension difficulties that young children face with non-canonical sentences, since the internal structure (i.e. the feature specification) of the moved element and of the intervener affects their performance, as well.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Spyridoula Varlokosta, Department of Linguistics, School of Philology, University of Athens, Panepistimioupoli Zografou, 15784 Athens, Greece. tel: +30 2107277642; fax: +30 2107277855; e-mail:
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We would like to thank Elena Anagnostopoulou, Nino Grillo, and Napoleon Katsos for discussions we had on some theoretical issues examined in the paper, as well as Anastasia Giannakidou and Winnie Lechner for their comments on a preliminary draft of the paper. Also, we are grateful to three anonymous reviewers and to the Associate Editor of the Journal of Child Language for their constructive comments, which helped us improve the quality of the paper. Last, we thank the children and the teachers of the kindergartens for their willingness to participate in our study. Permission to assess the children at the kindergartens was granted to the first author by the Hellenic Ministry of Education.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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