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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery

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Academic Paper


Title: Comparing different accounts of inversion errors in children's non-subject wh-questions: ‘What experimental data can tell us?’
Author: Ben Ambridge
Institution: University of Liverpool
Author: Caroline F. Rowland
Institution: University of Liverpool
Author: Anna L. Theakston
Institution: University of Manchester
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics; Syntax
Abstract: This study investigated different accounts of children's acquisition of non-subject wh-questions. Questions using each of 4 wh-words (what, who, how and why), and 3 auxiliaries (BE, DO and CAN) in 3sg and 3pl form were elicited from 28 children aged 3;6–4;6. Rates of non-inversion error (Who she is hitting?) were found not to differ by wh-word, auxiliary or number alone, but by lexical auxiliary subtype and by wh-word+lexical auxiliary combination. This finding counts against simple rule-based accounts of question acquisition that include no role for the lexical subtype of the auxiliary, and suggests that children may initially acquire wh-word+lexical auxiliary combinations from the input. For DO questions, auxiliary-doubling errors (What does she does like?) were also observed, although previous research has found that such errors are virtually non-existent for positive questions. Possible reasons for this discrepancy are discussed.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 33, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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