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Syntactic and semantic coordination in finite complement-clause constructions: a diary-based case study*


This study investigates the coordination of matrix and subordinate clauses within finite complement-clause constructions. The data come from diary and audio recordings which include the utterances produced by an American English-speaking child, L, between the ages 1;08 and 3;05. We extracted all the finite complement-clause constructions that L produced and compared the grammatical acceptability of these utterances with that of the simple sentences of the same length produced within the same two weeks and with that of the simple sentences containing the same verb produced within the same month. The results show that L is more likely to make syntactic errors in finite complement-clause constructions than she does in her simple sentences of the same length or with the same verb. This suggests that the errors are more likely to arise from the syntactic and semantic coordination of the two clauses rather than limitations in performance or lexical knowledge.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Bahar Köymen, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology– Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig 04103, Germany; e-mail:
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We are especially grateful to Susan R. Braunwald for her immense patience and labor of note-taking, recording, and transcribing her daughter's utterances, which made this work possible. We would also like to thank Roger Mundry for his help with the statistics, and Nicole Lorenz, Mathias Zieske, Doreen Schrimpf, and Andreas Domberg for their help in coding.

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