Stefanie Wulff


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The development of dependency length minimization in early child language: A case study of the dative alternation
Zoey Liu | Stefanie Wulff
Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Dependency Linguistics (Depling, GURT/SyntaxFest 2023)

How does the preference for dependency length minimization (DLM) develop in early child language? This study takes up this question with the dative alternation in English as the test case. We built a large-scale dataset of dative constructions using transcripts of naturalistic child-parent interactions. Across different developmental stages of children, there appears to be a strong tendency for DLM. The tendency emerges between the age range of 12-18 months, slightly decreases until 30-36 months, then becomes more pronounced afterwards and approaches parents’ production preferences after 48 months. We further show the extent of DLM depends on how a given dative construction is realized: the tendency for shorter dependencies is much more pronounced in double object structures, whereas the prepositional object structures are associated with longer dependencies.