Chinese EFL Learners’ Acquisition of English Relative Clauses

  •  Qing-Qiang Gao    


The study attempts to investigate Chinese English learners’ difficulty in the acquisition of English relative clauses (RCs). In addressing the objective, the present researcher employed two tests, sentence combination test and grammaticality judgment test, which were borrowed from Izumi (2003), to examine the learners’ knowledge of English RCs. 40 subjects participated in the study. In the sentence combination test, the subjects were instructed to combine two sentences together in a way so that relative clause would be formed. In the grammaticality judgment test, the subjects were supposed to judge the grammaticality of the given sentences and provide corrections for those they regard ungrammatical.

Data obtained from the two tests reveal that RCs modifying object are much easier than those modifying subject. The study found full support for the Kuno’s (1974) PDH, which proposes that center-embedding is more difficult to acquire than right-embedding due to short term memory limitations. The other two hypotheses, Keenan and Comrie’s (1977) Noun Phrase Accessibility Hierarchy Hypothesis (NPAH), and Hamilton’s (1994) Subject-Object Hierarchy Hypothesis (SOHH) were not borne out.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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