Subject-Object Asymmetry in the Second Language Acquisition of English Relatives and Embedded Wh-Questions

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This study examined subject-object asymmetry and developmental sequence in the second language (L2) acquisition of three types of wh-extraction, i.e., English headed relatives, headless relatives, and embedded wh-questions. Sixty-four L1 Korean learners of English completed an elicited imitation task and a grammaticality judgment task. The learners demonstrated a subject advantage in the headed RCs and headless RCs, but an object advantage in the embedded wh-questions, which suggests that they treat embedded wh-questions differently from headed relatives and headless relatives despite the similarities in surface forms. The learners further demonstrated the order of developing headless RCs followed by embedded wh-questions, and subsequently headed RCs, which supports the primacy of headless relatives as a simple nominal in L2 development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1389-1406
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Elicited imitation
  • Embedded wh-questions
  • English as a second language
  • English relative clauses
  • Korean speakers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)


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