The First-language Acquisition of Prenominal Modification with de in Mandarin

Jerome L. Packard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper details a study of the use of the marker de by two groups of two-year-old children acquiring Mandarin as their first language. The study focuses on whether these children acquire the lexically headless or headed form first, and whether the acquisition of a lexical head is related to the form of the modifying complement. The matrix embedding of de structures is also examined. The study found that children learning Mandarin acquire the lexically headless form first, and that the acquisition of the headed form is related to the complexity of the modifying complement. Pragmatic factors, as well as constraints on length and specificity, are evaluated as an explanation for the prior appearance of headless forms. It is suggested that children produce the headless forms first because of incomplete control of dominance relations that obtain between a head and its modifier.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Chinese Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


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