Recursive prepositional phrases in child English
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.