Activities and Seminars

Matthias Schlesewsky, Mainz Universität, Germany
Date: May 26, 2011

What: The relative clause conspiracy

What: The relative clause conspiracy

When: Thursday, May 26th, 5:00pm

Who: Matthias Schlesewsky, Mainz Universität, Germany

Where: BCBL, Paseo Mikeletegi 69, Floor 2.


‘Over the last 50 years, relative clauses have been used as the prime domain in which to investigate language comprehension. In particular, one often finds the statement that object relative clauses are more difficult to process than their subject-initial counterparts or, based on more recent data (e.g. on Basque), that there are complexity differences between these two sentence types in all languages, even though their directionality may change from language to language. In my talk, I will show that the line of argumentation that is typically used to derive these differences (e.g. structural or working memory considerations) is a relict of early attempts to show the psychological reality of transformations and cannot be derived on the basis of a. recent linguistic thoeries and – more importantly – b. the whole complete range of experimental findings on this construction type. I will argue that, without a deeper understanding of simple sentences and of the nature of head noun-relative pronoun relations, these complex constructions will never be understood even if the number of findings were to increase exponentially over the next 50 years.’