Word Order Doesn't Matter: Relative Clause Production in English and Japanese


Comparatively little is known about how semantic properties (such as animacy) and syntactic properties (such as word order) affect production of complex sentences. Relative clauses were elicited using a picture description task that manipulated head noun animacy in both English (which has head-first relative clauses and Japanese (head-final relative clauses). Participants of both languages produced more passive relatives with animate than inanimate heads, suggesting that a common underlying production constraint motivates structure choice. Different proportions of passive relatives with inanimate heads across languages suggest a role for both cognitive constrains as well as language-specific patters as factors that affect structure choice in language production.

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