Deaf Students’ Knowledge of Three Relativized Positions
Berent (1990), summarized in Berent (1996a), examined deaf college students’ knowledge of relative clauses in which three different positions were relativized—the subject (SUBJ), the object of the verb (OBJ), and the object of a preposition (OBJ/PREP). In all of the sentence types, the relative clauses branched to the right of the main clause. The three relative clause types are illustrated in the following sentences, with gaps represented by “bullets”:
SUBJ: Louise likes the photographer who explained the answer to the visitor.
OBJ: Jack knows the employer who the photographer met • in the office.
OBJ/PREP: Kathy misses the advisor who the student got the information from •.
The deaf college students were very successful in both producing SUBJ sentences and in judging them as grammatical English sentences. They were very unsuccessful in both producing and judging the other two sentence types, although they were slightly better on OBJ sentences than on OBJ/PREP sentences.
Deaf Students’ Knowledge of Three Positions with whose
On parallel sentences involving whose, illustrated below, production was much worse. Again, the students were most successful on SUBJ sentences. However, they produced hardly any OBJ or OBJ/PREP sentences correctly. In judging the grammatical status of the three sentence types with whose, the students were very successful on SUBJ sentences, but not very successful at all on the other two types.
SUBJ: Louise likes the photographer whose assistant explained the answer to the visitor.
OBJ: Jack knows the employer whose secretary the photographer met • in the office.
OBJ/PREP: Kathy misses the advisor whose colleague the student got the information from •.
The results of this study indicate the following with respect to relative clauses that branch to the right of main clauses:
Deaf college students are most successful on sentences in which the relativized position is the subject. They are not very successful on the object position and even less successful on object of preposition position. Except for relativized subject position, they are not very successful at all on relative clauses containing whose.
Deaf Students’ Production of Relative Clauses
In a study of deaf college students’ spontaneous written production of English relative clauses, Berent (2000) found that deaf students rarely used wh-words and phrases in their relative clauses, with the exception of who in the subject position:
The photographer who lent me a scanner asked me to return it.
With respect to the use of the word that as a relative clause introducer, they mostly used that to introduce relative clauses targeting subject and object position within the relative clause:
A scanner is a device that converts an image to a digital format.
A scanner is a device that you can buy • at a computer store.
They also often introduced relative clauses targeting object position without using that or a wh-word:
A scanner is a device you can buy • at a computer store.
The students almost never produced relative clauses in which the relativized position was the object of preposition position or a more deeply embedded position, and they produced no relative clauses beginning with a preposition followed by a wh-word as in
The photographer from whom I borrowed a scanner asked me to return it.