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At this ACLC seminar we are pleased to welcome two guest speakers: Professor Petra Schulz (Goethe-University Frankfurt ) and Professor Jeffrey Lidz (University of Maryland, College Park).

Event details of ACLC Seminar | Prof. Petra Schulz and Prof. Jeffrey Lidz
Date 15 February 2019
Time 15:00 -17:00
Location P.C. Hoofthuis
Room Room 5.02
ACLC seminar



Professor Petra Schulz

First wait - then integrate. How children master the comprehension of complex sentences 


Professor Jeffrey Lidz

On the Nature and Origin of Principle C



First wait - then integrate. How children master the comprehension of complex sentences  

Petra Schulz, Goethe-University Frankfurt

Complex clauses are challenging because a) they require considering the specific lexical, syntactic, and semantic contribution of each clause and their mode of composition and b) these properties differ across different types of embedded clauses. This talk examines how children master the target interpretation of complement clauses (CC), illustrated in (1), and of relative clauses (RC), illustrated in (2) and argues for a unified acquisition path.  


a. Factive: Mary forgot (that) she bought salad. 
b. Non-factive: Mary thought (that) she took bought salad.   
c. Non-factive:  Mary forgot to buy salad.


John bought the green shirt  a. which (by the way) was cheap. appositive
  b. that was cheap (-and not the expensive one).  restrictive

Comprehension data on factivity and on RC meaning suggests that children aged 4 to 6 master non-factive before factive sentences (e.g., Schulz, 2003; Dudley et al, 2015) and favor restrictive over appositive RCs (Trabandt, 2016). Surprisingly, however, at age 3 performance seemed target-like for factives (e.g., Harris, 1975) and for appositives (Trabandt, 2016).

I argue that children master the different target meanings of complex sentences in a unified, stepwise fashion: I) avoidance of any integration of the embedded sentence into the host clause, II) strict semantic integration of all embedded clause types low in the host clause, III) strict semantic integration of embedded clauses as a default, and loose semantic integration if supported by evidence in the linguistic signal (e.g., wh-relative-pronoun in English). Extending standard analyses of CC and RC, I assume that non-factives and restrictive RCs lead to strict semantic integration, whereas factive and appositive RCs trigger loose semantic integration, because they are not interpreted under the scope of the host element in the matrix clause.

Building on existing proposals like ‘adjunction precedes complementation’ (de Villiers & Roeper 2016), this account resolves the puzzle of why more complex structures are apparently target-like early on and then unlearned: they are not cases of adjunction but of avoiding any integration.

On the Nature and Origin of Principle C

Jeffrey Lidz, University of Maryland

This talk shows that Principle C effects are fundamentally syntactic. The argument is based on three kinds of data. First, we show that children exhibit Principle C effects as early as 24 months, and that these are attributable to Principle C and not to a range of alternative explanations. Second, we show that the processing of sentences exhibiting principle C is correlated with other measures of syntactic structure building (and not measures of lexical processing). Third, we argue that these patterns are inconsistent with theories that attribute Principle C effects to pragmatic reasoning or discourse processing (e.g, Reinhart 1983 or Ambridge et al 2015), due to the relatively delayed acquisition of the relevant pragmatic and discourse mechanisms.

Location: PCH, room 5.02

P.C. Hoofthuis

Room Room 5.02

Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam