Learning island-insensitivity from the input: A corpus analysis of child- And youth-directed text in norwegian
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionGlossa: a journal of general linguistics. 2021, 6 (1), 1-50. 10.16995/GLOSSA.5774
Norwegian allows filler-gap dependencies into relative clauses (RCs) and embedded questions (EQs) – domains that are usually considered islands in other languages. We conducted a corpus study on youth-directed reading material to assess what direct evidence Norwegian children receive for filler-gap dependencies into islands. Results suggest that the input contains examples of filler-gap dependencies into both RCs and EQs, but the examples are significantly less frequent than long-distance filler-gap dependencies into non-island clauses. Moreover, evidence for island violations is characterized by the absence of forms that are, in principle, acceptable in the target grammar. Thus, although they encounter dependencies into islands, children must generalize beyond the fine-grained distributional characteristics of the input to acquire the full pattern of island-insensitivity in their target language. We consider how different learning models would fare on acquiring the target generalizations and speculate on how the observed distribution of acceptable filler-gap dependencies reflects the interaction of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic conditions.