The accessibility hierarchy and the processing of English relative clauses by Chinese college students
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There has been some debate as to whether the AH, i.e., the typologically determined noun phrase accessibility hierarchy for relativization, can account for the second language acquisition of relative clauses. This paper attempts to investigate the relationship between the AH and the difficulty order of five English relative clause types for ESL learners based on the data collected from a relatively large group of ESL learners who were Chinese college students. Two data elicitation methods, i.e., Sentence Combining and Acceptability Judgment were employed. The observed difficulty order of the five relative clause types in the data is SU > DO > OCOMP/GEN > IO. It is hypothesized that the difficulty order of relative clauses for L2 learners is the result of the interaction between the AH and the surface configuration of relative clauses and sometimes may be markedly affected by target language features and/or language transfer.