Development of word order in german complement-clause constructions: Effects of input frequencies, lexical items, and discourse function

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We investigate the development of word order in German children's spontaneous production of complement clauses. From soon after their second birthday, young German children use both verb-final complements with complementizers and verb-second complements without complementizers. By their third birthday they use both kinds of complement clauses with a variety of complement-taking verbs. Early in development, however, verb-final complements and verbsecond complements are used with separate sets of complement-taking verbs, and they are used with separate sets of item-specific main-clause phrases. For example, initially phrases such as 'I want to see' were used exclusively with verb-final complements, whereas phrases such as 'do you see' and 'you have to say' were used exclusively with verb-second complements. Only later in development-when specific complement-taking verbs were used with both verb-second and verbfinal complements, with a greater variety of main-clause phrases, and when specific main-clause phrases were used with both verb-second and verb-final complements-was there evidence for structural links between these various, item-based, complement-clause constructions.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-610
Number of pages27
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010