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Recursive prepositional phrases in child English

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posted on 2022-11-21, 00:48 authored by Mitchell Robinson

In the biolinguistic enterprise, recursion is considered to be the signature feature of human language (Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch, 2002). As such, recursion has occupied a central position in syntactic theory for over twenty years. Recursion has also recently come to be the focus of much acquisition research, with numerous studies testing children for their comprehension and production of recursive phrase structures. The present study investigated 15 English-speaking children between the ages of 4;3 and 5;9 for their ability to produce recursively embedded prepositional phrases. The findings indicated that, at least from age 4, children can produce recursive prepositional phrases, with every child tested producing at least one recursive phrase. These results lend support to the notion that recursion emerges early and spontaneously in children’s grammars, and hints at the primacy of recursion as a linguistic operation. 


Table of Contents

Chapter one: introduction -- Chapter two: literature review -- Chapter three: methodology -- Chapter four: results -- Chapter five: discussion -- Chapter six: conclusion -- References -- Appendix A. Child participant information and consent form -- Appendix B. Adult participant information and consent form -- Appendix C. Test stimuli in the experiment -- Appendix D. Ethics approval letter


This thesis is presented as a partial fulfilment to the requirements for the Master of Research ADDITIONAL SUPERVISOR 3: Stephen Crain

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Department of Linguistics, 2022

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Iain Giblin

Additional Supervisor 1

Rozz Thornton

Additional Supervisor 2

Loes Koring


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:



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76 pages

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