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Sorry About That

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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery

By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland

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Academic Paper


Title: Children's ability to answer different types of questions
Author: Dorothe Salome
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Elena V. Lieven
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: Young children answer many questions every day. The extent to which they do this in an adult-like way – following Grice's Maxim of Quantity by providing the requested information, no more no less – has been studied very little. In an experiment, we found that two-, three- and four-year-old children are quite skilled at answering argument-focus questions and predicate-focus questions with intransitives in which their response requires only a single element. But predicate-focus questions for transitives – requiring both the predicate and the direct object – are difficult for children below four years of age. Even more difficult for children this young are sentence-focus questions such as “What's happening?”, which give the child no anchor in given information around which to structure their answer. In addition, in a corpus study, we found that parents ask their children predicate-focus and sentence-focus questions very infrequently, thus giving children little experience with them.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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