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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.

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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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