How do language-specific characteristics affect the acquisition of different relative clause types? Evidence from Finnish Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractWe report three studies (one corpus, two experimental) that investigated the acquisition of relative clauses (RCs) in Finnish-speaking children. Study 1 found that Finnish children's naturalistic exposure to RCs predominantly consists of non-subject relatives (i.e. oblique, object) which typically have inanimate head nouns. Study 2 tested children's comprehension of subject, object, and two types of oblique relatives. No difference was found in the children's performance on different structures, including a lack of previously widely reported asymmetry between subject and object relatives. However, children's comprehension was modulated by animacy of the head referent. Study 3 tested children's production of the same RC structures using sentence repetition. Again we found no subject–object asymmetry. The pattern of results suggested that distributional frequency patterns and the relative complexity of the relativizer contribute to the difficulty associated with particular RC structures.

publication date

  • January 2017