Capturing the evasive passive

Stephen Crain*, Rosalind Thornton, Keiko Murasugi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


In the 1980s, researchers in child language devised several new experimental techniques to assess children's emerging linguistic competence. Innovations in methodology were needed to bridge the apparent gap between the expectation of rapid language acquisition, based on linguistic theory, and the protracted acquisition that was being witnessed using the tools and tasks available at the time. This article discusses the use of elicited production in charting the course of development of verbal passives, a linguistic structure that was thought to be late developing (e.g., Borer & Wexler 1987). We compare the findings from an elicited production study with the findings from other tasks. We conclude that verbal passives emerge earlier in children's grammar than had been previously recognized, thereby bringing data from experimental studies of child language more in line with the expectations of linguistic theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalLanguage Acquisition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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