Edited by Mahmoud Azaz
[Studies in Arabic Linguistics 12] 2023
► pp. 213–230
In this paper, we investigate the acquisition of relativisation in young children exposed to Moroccan Arabic. The aim of the experiment reported is to test the hypothesis by Friedmann, Belletti and Rizzi (2009) according to which children follow a stricter version of Relativised Minimality (RM) in sentence comprehension, to the effect that dependencies in which lexical objects move across lexical subjects are not understood. The work of Belletti, Friedmann, Brunato and Rizzi (2012) further shows that gender mismatch boosts comprehension of similar structures when gender is a criterial feature, as would be the case in Moroccan Arabic. We designed a sentence-picture matching task testing subject and object relativisation, with gender-matched and mismatched subject and object. The experiment was administered to 24 children in the age range of 4 to 5 and a group of adults. The results indicate that, in accordance with the predictions of child RM, the comprehension of subject and object relatives does not differ when subject and object are mismatched in gender; however, object relatives are less well understood when the head of the relative and the intervening subject share the gender feature specification.