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Academic Paper


Title: Children's knowledge of hierarchical phrase structure: quantifier floating in Japanese
Author: Takaaki Suzuki
Institution: Kyoto Sangyo University
Author: Naoko Yoshinaga
Institution: Hirosaki Gakuin University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: The interpretation of floating quantifiers in Japanese requires knowledge of hierarchical phrase structure. However, the input to children is insufficient or even misleading, as our analysis indicates. This presents an intriguing question on learnability: do children interpret floating quantifiers based on a structure-dependent rule which is not obvious in the input or do they employ a sentence comprehension strategy based on the available input? Two experiments examined four- to six-year-old Japanese-speaking children for their interpretations of floating quantifiers in SOV and OSV sentences. The results revealed that no child employed a comprehension strategy in terms of the linear ordering of constituents, and most five- and six-year-olds correctly interpreted floating quantifiers when word-order difficulty was reduced. These facts indicate that children's interpretation of floating quantifiers is structurally dependent on hierarchical phrase structure, suggesting that this knowledge is a part of children's grammar despite the insufficient input available to them.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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