Cleft sentences and reconstruction in child language

Rosalind Thornton, Hirohisa Kiguchi, Elena D'Onofrio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study examines it-clefts in four- and five-year-old English-speaking children using a truth-value judgment task. The goal was to find out whether children (i) observe principle C in clefts like It was Spot that he brushed and (ii) access bound-variable interpretations in clefts like It was her pig that every girl carried, despite the lack of c-command between relevant elements in the surface representation. Our experimental finding was that children behave like adults. This suggests that children do not rely solely on the word order of sentences encountered in their linguistic input, but use mechanisms made available by innate linguistic knowledge for interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-431
Number of pages27
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • universal grammar
  • it-clefts
  • reconstruction
  • acquisition of syntax
  • principle C
  • bound variables

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