Extending ellipsis research: The acquisition of sluicing in Dutch

Charlotte Lindenbergh, Angeliek van Hout, Bartjan Hollebrandse

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademic


    We investigated the acquisition of sluicing, i.e. sentence ellipsis, in Dutch to assess if Dutch preschool children are able to produce and comprehend sluicing sentences in an adult-like way. While other types of ellipsis have been intensively studied in language acquisition, sluicing has received very little attention. So far, one grammaticality judgment study tested sluicing sentences with English children (Wood 2009), but no previous comprehension or production studies have been reported in the literature. To fill this gap, we developed a novel paradigm to test comprehension and production of sluicing. 25 Dutch preschoolers (μ 5;5, range 4;9-6;1) were at ceiling in comprehension, and produced many sluices (67%) as compared to full, non-elliptical sentences (11%). We conclude that Dutch 5-year-olds have no trouble with sluicing. Our conclusions are in line with studies on NP ellipsis (e.g. Wijnen et al. 2004) and VP ellipsis (e.g. Thornton and Wexler 1999; Foley et al. 2003), supporting the view that children at this age are fully able to reconstruct the antecedent of ellipsis, in our case by integrating the sluice in the discourse. This study thus contributes to theories on the acquisition of ellipsis and also to theories about the acquisition of anaphoricity in discourse more in general.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBUCLD 39 Online Proceedings Supplement
    Place of PublicationBoston University
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2015


    • Ellipsis
    • Syntax
    • First language acquisition
    • Sluicing
    • Anaphora

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