Twenty Questions
Jill de Villiers
Smith College
Tom Roeper
U.Mass, Amherst.
ASHA, November 2003, Chicago.
The Acquisition Challenge
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•
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Grammar is automatic in adults.
We are not conscious of much structure.
Questions involve many intricate steps
The child must establish the grammar of
questions in English from all possible
question grammars.
• We hope to show there are challenges at
every level.
We will choose twenty structures
involving questions, and describe:
• The grammar involved- the mechanism
• The meaning entailed in using them
• The variations that occur crosslinguistically
• What we know about normal acquisition
• Where things could go wrong.
Question 1: What's a wh-word
made up of?
• What’s the mechanism?
• Contraction: wh– +deictic, pronoun, or quantifier
• Two morphemes:
What = wh +that
When = wh+then
Where =wh+here
Which = wh+ each
Whose = wh+ ‘s
Question 1: What's a wh-word
made up of?
• What’s the meaning?
• wh- => question
• ==> ranges over a set
• ==> partitions the world into subsets
What can you see in your house
that is black that you have had for
5years?
Question 1: What's a wh-word
made up of?
• What’s the variation across languages?
a. Most forms are present in all languages
b. Extra or fewer forms
c. Japanese: how and why are the same
d. Chinese: overt quantifier
wh+somebody = who
Question 1: What's a wh-word
made up of?
•
What’s the acquisition path?
1.Children say overt examples e.g.
"who somebody did that?=>
discovers properties of who-that it is a
hidden quantifier.
2. Children acquire the wh-words in a
fairly standard order: what/where
/who before how/when/why
3. Which/ whose => very late
Question 1: What's a wh-word
made up of?
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
1. Confuse wh-words (how and why)
2. Move part not whole
Who did he read (..)‘s book
3. Could a child think *whis = wh+this?
Question 2: What does
movement do?
• What’s the mechanism?
• Connects: argument structure to wh– Is it like co-indexation?
– John-x lost his -x hat
– What [+theme] -x did you buy [+theme] -x
("abstract agreement"- Chomsky 2001)
Or is it movement? (see next)
Question 2: What does
movement do?
• What’s the meaning?
The meaning comes from the constituent of the
sentence that the wh-word "stands in" for:
He ate food.
He ate what? (echo, un-moved question)
Ans: "food".
When the wh-word moves into the front, to spec CP, it
takes on the property of a quantifier.
He ate food.
What did he eat?
*"food", instead, a full set answer:
"He ate beans, and rice, and tacos."
Question 2: What does
movement do?
• What’s the variation across languages?
1. Some Grammars move wh(English, German)
Some do not: Chinese, Turkish.
You want what =what do you want
2. Some Grammars move phrases:
a. the cover of which book do you like
b. which book do you like the cover of
Some move only wh-word (Koster 2001)
Question 2: What does
movement do?
• What’s the acquisition path?
1. Unmoved: wh just attached initially
2. Complex wh (Phrase-movement)
avoided
3. Resumptive interpretations given
Whox did she help feed himx?
4. Two movements avoided (below)
Question 2: What does
movement do?
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
• English has data which can be
misanalyzed as Chinese, German.Paluaun.
• a. Echo = real question (Chinese)
b. Wh’s = copies (German)
How did you see how to dance?
c. Resumptive:
Whox did she help feed himx?
Question 3: Yes/no questions
• What’s the mechanism?
1. Late acquired modal and tense information
must move to front
2. Agreement and Tense are involved
3. Do-insertion needed if no
inflectional information present
*plays John
Introduce "do": John do+s play
Move aux:
Does John play?
Question 3: Yes/no questions
• What’s the meaning?
• Evaluation of a proposition
Question 3: Yes/no questions
• What’s the variation across languages?
1. Latin indicates yes/no with particle
2. German moves the main verb
(as older varieties of English did)
• plays John the tuba?
• Now, we only do this with main verb
be:
• Are you sick?
Question 3: Yes/no questions
• What’s the acquisition path?
•
1. No movement- just intonation:
This is mine? You go now?
2. Children may imitate Latin
“are you sneezed?”/”are this is broken?”
3. Double-insertion (Menyuk (1969))
“will you can play?”
4. Children copy before they move:
“Is Tom is busy?”
Question 3: Yes/no versus wh
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
In addition to what occurs:
a. Tense-copying
“did he left?”
b. Two modals:
?“should have I done that”
*have been I here
[have I been here]
Question 4: Tag questions
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
What’s the mechanism?
John can sing, can't he?
Step 1: find pronoun/ John=he
Step 2: find auxiliary=can
Step 3: copy to end and invert order: can he
Step 4: change polarity of auxiliary: can not he?
Step 4: contract negation: can't he?
Question 4: Tag questions
• What’s the meaning?
• Doubt about assertion
• Asks for listener confirmation
Question 4: Tag questions
• What’s the variation across languages?
1. Rare phenomenon
Most Grammars => not so=invariant form
French: n'est-ce pas? , German: nicht wahr?
2. African-American English =>
do-insertion for habitual tag
He be sleeping, don’t he?
(Jackson et al (1996))
NB: proves BE in AAE is not same as copula BE.
Question 4: Tag questions
• What’s the acquisition path?
1.Non-copying form first
– He can sing, huh?
2. Brown & Hanlon (1970) Adam uses Tagquestions only after:
inversion, negation, and pronominalization
have been acquired.
Question 4: Tag questions
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
a. Overuse of do-insertion
– *He can sing, don’t he
b. Failure to do negative reversal:
*he can’t sing, can’t he
c. Main Verb (does not occur)
*he plays, playsn’t he
Question 5: Accommodation
• What’s the mechanism? (Semantic)
a. limitation to context
“nobody likes me” = kids, classmates,
=/= no one in world
b. what can you see? =
in context
c. what can you sing?
in general or right now
Question 5: Accommodation
• What’s the meaning?
• Presupposition accommodation is general
phenomenon:
– Do you have the keys?
Presupposes there are keys and we
both know about them.
Question 5: Accommodation
• What’s the variation across languages?
• This may be a true universal
• Asian languages: arguments
can be contextual:
Let me give you (object visual)
Question 5: Accommodation
• What’s the acquisition path?
1. Unknown
2. All children must accommodate to
answer any question
3. Generic questions => beyond context
(Gelman (2002), Perez & Gavarros, (2003))
a. what color are these apples?
b. what color are apples?
Question 5: Accommodation
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
- Misconstrue the domain of questions
Teacher: “What’s in this book?”
Chapters, ideas, stories, words
Result: Mystified students:
Problem assumed to be “cognitive”
but could be linguistic.
Question 6:adjuncts and
arguments
• What’s the mechanism?
Arguments are obligatory:
a. *John smashed__
b. John smashed something
c. What did John smash__?
Smash has no meaning without an object
Adjuncts: are optional in appearance:
d. When did John smash the bowl?
When is added, so the child has to know what kind of
adjunct it stands for.
Question 6: Arguments and
adjuncts
• What’s the meaning?
Different verbs have different likely adjuncts:
where did he drive? is more likely than
where did you sneeze?
Children are sensitive to these 'hidden' expectations of
verbs (Winzemer, 1981).
Ambiguity can arise as to the site of the adjunct: which
verb does it come from?
when did John say__ he swam __?
Question 6: Expected questions:
arguments and adjuncts
• What’s the variation across languages?
• Homophony with conjunctions
Bill shouted when John came
= When John came, Bill shouted
=Bill shouted what time John came
• French allows unmoved adjuncts
Except why (pourquoi)
il va ou [he goes where]
*il va pourquoi [he goes why]
Question 6: Expected questions:
arguments and adjuncts
• What’s the acquisition path?
• A. Evidence that children adjoin
without movement
a. no inversion
“how you eat peaches?”
“what he can do”
b. inversion appears gradually
arguments first, then adjunctswhy is last
(deVilliers (1991), Thornton (2003))
Question 6: Expected questions:
arguments and adjuncts
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Several parameters must be set:
a. move or not move
b. long-distance movement or not
In addition, children need to fix the
argument structure of verbs: eg. that
smash is transitive
And, they need to differentiate the meanings
of the adjuncts to answer them right.
Question 7: Why and How
•
•
a.
What’s the mechanism?
Movement or Adjunction
Special syntax for why: no movement
why go outside
why baseball
*where baseball
Note: direct adjunction to IP,VP, NP
Question 7: Why and How
• What’s the meaning?
• Sentential, verbphrase, verb
– Each have a different meaning
• How can people win elections
• How1 = sentence--how come?-by law
(vote count)
• How 2= verbphrase- style - by TV
• How 3 = verb - manner--by accident
Question 7: Why and How
• What’s the variation across languages?
• A, How and why confusable
How = how come = why (like Chinese)
• B. Idioms
– How nice!
– How about that?
Question 7: Why and How
• What’s the acquisition path?
A. evidence of confusion of meanings
“how do you eat?”
-“because I am hungry”
B. Adjunction before movement
C. In the "why" stage, children ask t
everywhere, even inappropriately:
Why moon? Why the garage door?
(Blank, 1975).
Question 7: Why and How
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Children can continue to confuse how and
why
cf: Morphology: Would children mistake the
internal structure of how = *wh+now?
And why is there no "somewhy"?
(somewhat, somewhere, somehow…)
Question 8: Double wh
• What’s the mechanism?
Example: How did the girl play what?
“She played the drums with her feet
and the piano with her hands”
b. co-indexing wh - =>
paired sets
c. Pairing effect still underexplained
This girl played different things in different ways.
She played the drums with her feet and the piano
with her hands. How did the girl play what?
c. The Psychological Corporation
Typical Answers to double
WH questions
• PAIRED, EXHAUSTIVE responses
– Ex. She played the piano with her
hands and the drums with her feet.
• SINGLETONS (Incorrect)
– One element: “piano” “with her feet”
– Both objects, no instruments: “piano and
drums”
– One pair: “the piano with her hands.”
• OTHER
– “She played a lot.” “She was playing.”
Question 8: Double wh
• What’s the meaning?
• Exhaustive set of whos linked
to exhaustive set of whats
• Idioms: who’s who
what’s what
Question 8: Double wh
• What’s the variation across languages?
1.Some grammars allow both wh- to move:
Bulgarian => who what ate?
2. Some grammars allow opposite order
*What did who eat ? (German)
5. Italian: no double wh– [who’s who requires a paraphrase]
Question 8: Double wh
• What’s the acquisition path?
1. Singletons
2. Single Pairing
3. Exhaustive pairing
By 3 or 4, normally developing children are
giving paired answers.
(Roeper & de Villiers, 1993)
Question 8: Double wh
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
The major error among language- disordered
children seems to be giving singleton answers
persistently even at later ages.
(Finneran, 1993; Seymour, Roeper, de Villiers, de
Villiers & Pearson, in press).
Question 9: Wh and sets
• What’s the mechanism?
UG => "moved" wh questions inherently
allow multiple answers
(unlike echoes).
(In languages without surface
movement, the wh still moves at
"hidden" logical form)
Cognitive dimension: possible
Question 9: Wh and sets
• What’s the meaning?
Who = wh+every => exhaustive set
who was in the car the night of the murder?
Perjury if set is not exhaustive!
Question 9: Wh and sets
• What’s the variation across languages?
Some languages (Jakartan Indonesian) lack a
quantifier in the wh word (Cole et al, 2001)
Chinese: explicitly, who = wh+somebody
Japanese: wh=wh+everybody
Question 9: Wh and sets
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Hypothesis: all children begin
with singleton analysis
= immature grammar of English, but
possible UG option.
Question 9: Wh and sets
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
1. Failure to progress beyond singleton
stage
2. Failure to achieve pairing
(Finneran, 1993; Seymour, Roeper, de
Villiers, de Villiers & Pearson, in
press).
Question 10: Superiority
• What’s the mechanism?
• Minimize movement
In contrast:
The question
"What can who eat?"
involves a longer movement,
violating the principle of economy.
Question 10: Superiority
• What’s the meaning?
– As before, paired wh-sets.
– Is superiority a purely syntactic
constraint or focus difference?
a. German allows superiority
violation
b. And therefore focal variation
Cf in English: Which boy ate which fruit?
Versus:
Which fruit did which boy eat?
They differ is what is focused on: boys or fruit.
Question 10: Superiority
• What’s the variation across languages?
• SOV/SVO contrast: economy of
representation measured differently
German: who bought what =
what did who buy
Question 10: Superiority
• What’s the acquisition path?
• DELV test shows virtually no
errors among >1000 children
German: 4yr olds produce
– “was hat wer gekauft”
– "what has who bought?"
= superiority violation for English.
Question 10: Superiority
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
• More complex forms:
Who knows who bought what?
– Only initial who answered
Who did Bill say bought what?
– Both who/what answered
– Pairing returns
• Does the child get this right? We do not know.
Question 11: Which X?
• What’s the mechanism?
• Which N? is moved in its entirety to the front of
the sentence, leaving a trace as usual. E.g.
Which boy were you talking to (t)?
It has been proposed that the site to which it
moves is "above" the usual site for simple
questions, in a site linked to discourse. (Stowell
& Beghelli, 1994).
Rizzi (1990) argued that such D-linked items
might move in one long movement.
Question 11: Which X?
• What’s the meaning?
• Which X? assumes there is a set of X's and one is to
be selected. As such, it is called a discourse-linked
question, referring to already introduced
information. "Who" makes no such assumption.
cf. Who on earth broke my computer?
"One of your kids broke my computer"
*"Which one of my kids on earth did it?"
(Pesetsky, 1987)
NB: Which is which? -even more assumptions!
Question 11: Which X?
• What’s the variation across languages?
• In Chamorro, there is a different syntax
for which-phrases than other wh-forms.
(Chung,1994 , Thornton, 1995)
Question 11: Which X?
• What’s the acquisition path?
• "Which" is among the last wh-words to make its
appearance.
• Thornton elicited which-X and what-X from
children 3-6 and found several error types:
Which spaceman did he didn’t like the potato
chip?
Which spaceman it liked the potato chip?
Which juice that the ghost could drink?
Question 11: Which X?
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Disordered children might show these
difficulties for longer.
Children could leave the X behind.
They could also fail to understand the
discourse-linking.
There are no studies of these phenomena in
children with SLI.
Question 12: Whose X?
• What’s the mechanism?
• Whose N? is moved in its entirety to the front of
the sentence, leaving a trace as usual. E.g.
Whose house did you see (t)?
The internal structure of the "whose-N" may be
different across languages. In English, the
possessor is said to be in a different position
(spec DP) than in Russian (Spec NP) (Avrutin,
1994).
Question 12: Whose X?
• What’s the meaning?
• "Whose X" is a question about the
possessor of an object. The answer is
something like
"the doctor's", or "Frank's".
Interestingly, you can't just answer
"Frank".
Question 12: Whose X?
• What’s the variation across languages?
• In Russian, you can move the whose and
strand the NP:
Vju on vygulival sobaky
whosei did he walk ti dog?
"whose dog did he walk" (Avrutin, 1994)
Question 12: Whose X?
• What’s the acquisition path?
• "Whose" is also among the last wh-words to
make its appearance.
• 2 year olds say:
"Who is it ball?"
"Whose is it bicycle?"
"Who is it pee-pee?" (Russom, 1992)
"Who did you read (..)‘s book?" (Guasavera and
Thornton (2001)
"who/se" is moving alone, a violation in English.
Question 12: Whose X?
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Hoekstra et al (1992)found children misunderstanding who as whose:
Bert tells Ernie Pipo's stories.
Who does Bert tell stories?
"Pipo" instead of "Ernie"
This suggests children might "strand" the
NP illegally, as if English were Russian,
and also confuse who/whose.
Question 13: With whom?
• What’s the mechanism?
Example: With whom did he go?
Versus: Who did he go with?
Both are acceptable in English, the first
sounds more formal. The wh-word either
moves with the whole prepositional
phrase or moves OUT of the PP.
Pied piping
• In the next example, the whole PP moves
to the front- this is called "pied piping" the wh word drags its whole entourage
along.
Question 13: With whom?
• What’s the meaning?
Who did he go with?
The question asks about the object of the
preposition, so asks about an oblique role of
the action such as an accompaniment or an
instrument or a location:
What did he fix it with?
Where was he walking to?
What was she sitting in?
Question 13: With whom?
• What’s the variation across languages?
There are languages that do not permit
"preposition stranding" such as French,
where you must obligatorily take the
whole PP up to the front:
Á qui attendez-vous?
To whom listen you?
*Qui attendez-vous á?
Who listen you to?
Question 13: With whom?
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Children learning English virtually always strand the
preposition. They prefer to begin questions with a
wh-word.
• At 3, they sometimes misconstrue a PP as being
inside an NP:
What did he fix the cat with?
* a broken leg. (Otsu, 1981)
Expected: "a scarf" with PP on Verb.
• The difference is between: "a cat with a broken leg"
or "fix with a scarf"
This boy found a cat with a broken leg. He
fixed the cat with a scarf.
What did he fix the cat with?
©.The Psychological Corporation
Question 13: With whom?
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
• A child could have difficulty reconnecting the
preposition and the wh-word. For example:
What did you eat it with? (e.g. a fork)
What did you eat with it? (e.g. chips)
• A child could continue to allow mistaken Q's
from a PP inside a NP. There is no work on this
in children with language disorders.
Question 14: Long distance
movement
• What’s the mechanism?
• The wh-word can move across clauses to
the front of a sentence:
The boy said he liked what?
What did the boy say (t) he liked (t)?
• The wh-word moves first to the middlethe clause boundary- then to the front.
The following illustrates this.
Question 14: Long distance
movement
• What’s the meaning?
• The long distance question stands in for the
constituent from the lower clause, so e.g. the patient
of that action verb or the reason that action was
performed:
Why did he say she went home t?
= He said she went home because she was
expecting a package.
Cf: He said she went home because she didn’t want
anyone to disturb her in her office.
= short distance construal of why with say.
Question 14: Long distance
movement
• What’s the variation across languages?
•
Many languages that allow wh-movement allow
long distance movement.
• Sometimes the link is accomplished by binding
• Long distance movement is not universal. Sometimes
the wh-word moves half-way and stops: e.g German
Was hat er gesagt wie er das Küchen machen kann?
What did he say how he the cake make can?
[ How did he say he could make the cake]
(McDaniel, 1989)
Question 14: Long distance
movement
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Children comprehend long distance
movement from about age 3 years,
allowing the wh-word to be associated
with a trace either in the upper or lower
clause of a sentence such as:
How did he tell you (t1) he could cook it (t2)?
(de Villiers, Roeper & Vainikka, 1990; Weissenborn,
Roeper & de Villiers, 1995)
Question 14: Long distance
movement
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
In comprehension, a child could link the wh-word
only to the top verb. or have difficulty holding
on to the form of the question across two
clauses.
In production, children can leave the middle trace
overt:
Who do you think who's under there?
What do you think what Grover eats?
(Thornton 1995)
Question 15: "False" clauses
• What’s the mechanism?
• If there is no sensible interpretation for the wh
in the top clause, one might expect long distance
reading to be easy. For example,
The mother said she bought what?
What did the mother say she bought?
• As before, a trace can be part of the lower clause
of a two clause sentence, and the wh-word
moves across two clauses and two verbs.
Question 15: "False" clauses
• What’s the meaning?
Recovering the meaning of such a trace requires
taking both verbs into account, as the trace is
"under" both verbs. So it isn’t sufficient to only take
the final verb into account.
What did the mother say she bought?
Is not the same necessarily as
What did the mother buy?
For example, the mother might tell a lie, or make a
mistake.
Do children presuppose the truth? (Shultz, 2003)
Question 15: "False" clauses
• What’s the variation across languages?
In all those languages that permit long
distance movement, this is true: the trace
is under both verbs.
This mother snuck out one night when her little girl was asleep and
bought a surprise birthday cake. The next day the little girl saw the bag
from the store and asked, “What did you buy?” The mom wanted to
keep the surprise until later so she said, “ Just some paper towels.”
-- What did the mom say she bought?
©.The Psychological Corporation
Question 15: "False" clauses
• What’s the acquisition path?
Children below about age 4 or 5 take the meaning
of the last verb only into account. So they treat
What did the mother say she bought?
As if it meant
What did the mother buy?
They answer "cake!"
Older children answer "Paper towels"
(de Villiers, 1995; de Villiers & Pyers, 2002)
Question 15: "False" clauses
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Children with language disorders continue
to make this mistake long after age four.
(de Villiers, Burns & Pearson, 2003; Seymour,
Roeper, de Villiers, de Villiers & Pearson, in
press)
Question 16: Wh-barriers
• What’s the mechanism?
In long distance questions:
What did you say I should do?
the wh-word moves through the boundary
between clauses. If that space is filled by
another wh-word, the sentence fails:
* What did you say how I should do?
Question 16: Wh-barriers
• What’s the meaning?
Remember the ambiguous case:
When did he say (t1) she left (t2)?
If there is a medial wh,
When did he say how she left?
then only one meaning is available:
When did he say (t) (how she left)?
Question 16: Wh-barriers
• What’s the variation across languages?
Wh-barriers seem to be a universal
phenomenon among those languages that
permit long distance movement
(Chomsky, 1985)
Question 16: Wh-barriers
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Children seem to obey wh-barriers as
young as we can test them - around 3.5
years. They make <10% errors on such
questions, i.e.. They do not answer with
the lower clause construal.
• (de Villiers, Roeper & Vainikka, 1990;
Abdulkarim, 2001)
Question 16: Wh-barriers
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
The major error children make is answering the
medial question, which is discussed next.
This error persists in language disordered children.
(Seymour, et al. in press)
Question 17: Medial questions
• What’s the mechanism?
• In some languages like German, the "real"
question can occur in the middle of the sentence,
with a "generic" question marker "was" at the
start e.g.
Was hat er gesagt wie er das Küchen machen
kann?
Literally:
What did he say how he the cake make
can?
Question 17: Medial questions
• What’s the meaning?
• The meaning is the same as a long
distance-moved question in languages like
English, i.e. it means:
How did he say he could make the cake?
Question 17: Medial questions
• What’s the variation across languages?
• Several such languages exist: Romany,
dialects of German, Hindi. It is not true of
adult English.
Question 17: Medial questions
• What’s the acquisition path?
English-speaking children mistake the medial wh for a
real question, and answer
How did he tell you when he could cook it?
by saying "tonight" = when. This error disappears
about age 5-6. Thornton (1990) elicited long distance
questions from children like:
What do you think what Cookie Monster eats?
So medial questions are clearly one of the grammatical
options children entertain
Question 17: Medial questions
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Children are most often drawn to answer a medial
who or what:
How did the mother learn what to bake?
They answer "cake".
Notice the same children do NOT answer the whword in a relative clause sentence such as:
How did the boy who sneezed drink the milk?
The error of answering the medial question
persists for language disordered children.
This mother didn't know how to bake a cake. She watched
a Tv program about cooking and she learned how to make
a lovely cake with chocolate pudding mix.
How did the mother learn what to bake?
©.The Psychological Corporation
Question 18: Relative clauses as
barriers
• What’s the mechanism?
Relative clauses also have a "wh-word" in them:
The man who I saw
The wh can be hidden(c.f older English):
The clock (which) that I broke.
That wh-word occupies the place that a question
would move through, so serves as a barrier to
wh-movement from inside a relative clause.
Question 18: Relative clauses as
barriers
• What’s the meaning?
In a sentence such as:
How did the man who spoke break his foot?
The answer can only be how the man broke
his foot, not how he spoke. The meaning
of "how" connecting inside the relative
clause is blocked.
Question 18: Relative clauses as
barriers
• What’s the variation across languages?
In languages that move wh, all of them
forbid extraction of the wh from inside a
relative clause.
Question 18: Relative clauses as
barriers
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Children respect the barrier of a relative
clause as young as we can test them (de
Villiers & Roeper, 1995). They make
<10% errors. This is across a variety of
positions:
How did the dog bark who climbed the tree?
How did the dog who climbed the tree bark?
These two boys went to the circus. A clown tickled the little boy on the nose
with a feather. He sneezed so hard he blew the clown's wig off! After the
circus, they were very thirsty and went to buy some milk. The little boy drank
his milk through a straw, but the big boy drank his milk straight from the
carton.
How did the boy who sneezed drink the milk?
©.The Psychological Corporation
Question 18: Relative clauses as
barriers
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
Children with language disorders are more prone to
mistakes, but they are still rare (<20%).
More usually, the child loses track of the question and
answers something irrelevant.
The only report of a child making mistakes in
production is from the case of a blind child studied
by Wilson & Peters (1988):
Whati is he cooking on a hot ti?
Other scattered reports exist of very young children
doing such things(Russom, 1992)
Question 19: Traces
• What’s the mechanism?
When a wh-word moves, does it really
leave behind a "trace"?
Evidence: We normally don't
pronounce "want to" in its entirety,
we say
"wanna".
e.g. "I wanna stop talking now"
Question 19: Traces
• But sometimes, a wh-trace can intervene
between "want" and "to":
Who do the Red sox want to win?
(began as: "the Red Sox want who t win?"
Now, you don’t say "wanna":
*Who do the Red Sox wanna win?
This one is fine because the trace is after:
Who do the Red Sox wanna beat t?
Question 19: Traces
• What’s the variation across languages?
• Traces are hypothesized as 'empty categories'
throughout languages that have movement rules.
Sometimes, a trace can be 'spelled out' as a copy
of the moved element:
• German e x.
• Wie hat er gesagt wie er gespielt hat
• How did he say how he played
Question 19: Traces
There seem also to be languages that connect whto the gap with a resumptive pronoun:
Palauan:
Ngngnera el rum lulngetmoki er ngii a Willy?
What
room clean up
it
Willy?
What room did Willy clean up it?
Question 19: Traces
• What’s the acquisition path?
• Phinney (1981) and Crain (1991) found
that 3 and 4 year old children
differentiated their production of
"want to" versus
"wanna"
as a function of whether a trace lay in
between 'want' and 'to', just like adults.
Question 19: Traces
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
• Children may mistake their language for another
type(e.g. Palauan) that allows resumptives.
Perez (1995) found this:
Who did Mary help to feed him?
Adults took this to mean:
Whoi did Mary help (ti) to feed him?
Children frequently took it to mean:
Whoi did Mary help to feed himi?
Question 20: Embedded wh
• What’s the mechanism?
• A wh-clause can be embedded under a
declarative or yes/no interrogative:
He saw where they went.
Did he see where they went?
• The wh is just a complementizer, not a
real question. It does not trigger auxiliaryinversion:
• * Did he see where did they go?
Question 20: Embedded wh
• What’s the meaning?
• The wh-word is not a question, so it is not
answered. However, when the subject is
you, it is an indirect question:
Do you know what time it is?
Did you see where they went?
• Then, you answer the wh-question.
Question 20: Embedded wh
• What’s the variation across languages?
• Languages that permit a "real" wh in the medial
position, do not allow it when the question is a
yes/no question.
• Some languages permit inversion in the lower
clause e.g. African-American-English:
Did you say how are you going?
Question 20: Embedded wh
• What’s the acquisition path?
Children rarely invert aux in the lower clause
(Stromswold, 1990), but often fail to invert in
the main clause.
When children first produce embedded whclauses, they begin inverting auxiliaries in the
main clause at the same time. The effect is
specific to each wh-word.
(de Villiers, 1991).
Examples from Adam
Early stage:
Why de kitty can't stand up?
Why he's very talented?
Then:
I know why he called the scarecrow a scarecrow
I wonder why it comes so loose, huh?
At the same time as:
Why are you doing that?
Why doesn't it fall off ?
Adam's "why" questions (de
Villiers, 1991)
40
30
20
10
Ad am why inv
Ad am why e mb
0
0
10
20
30
Row Numbers
40
50
60
Adam's "what" questions (de
Villiers, 1991)
80
60
40
20
ad am wha t e mb
ad am wha t in v
0
0
10
20
30
Row Numbers
40
50
Why?
• I suggested that at the point that children
can embed the wh-word as a
complementizer, it can no longer be
analyzed as "attached" or adjoined, but
must be in the CP under the scope of the
verb.
• This means the question must also be in
CP, hence auxiliary movement is
triggered.
Question 20: Embedded wh
• What’s the potential for mis-steps?
• Children could mistake the forms for whquestions even when the subject is other
than "you".
• They could mistakenly invert in the lower
clause.
• Both of these are properties of other
grammars.
Conclusions
• What is the General Path?
–
–
–
–
Acquisition from simple to complex
Wh-is abstract: covers many meanings
Wh +"variable" is not assumed
Size of moved constituent open to variation
Overview of Departures
Morphology
• wrong wh-word: how = why
Discourse
• wrong wh- answered: middle not first
Semantics
• singleton and not a variable answer
• presupposition: assume complement must be true
Structure
• wrong piece part moved: some left behind
• resumptive pronoun readings
Mistakes are not "wild"options.
• Each of these phenomena reflects a natural
option within UG.
• Each is a challenge to a child. None of them
reflects a fundamental cognitive impairment.
They are higher-order linguistic problems.
• The course of development is therefore intricate,
with many choice points.
• We can represent these as a true
"twenty questions" game.
What Twenty Questions can a clinician ask?
Doe s he have e m bedded Qs ?
Doe s he e li de over a t ra ce?
C an he disti ngu ish relat iv es?
Know s wh -Q not ha lf -w ay m oved?
Doe s he sho w ba rr iers t o mov em en t?
Doe s he take bo th ve rbs i nto a ccoun t?
C an he m ove acro ss 2 cla use s?
Can he ex tract wh f ro m PP?
Doe s he know co
Doe s he know co
m plex Q w it h m orpho logy?
m plex-p art wh?
D oe s he k now w hich w h ta kes precede nce t o mo ve ?
D oe s he k now the set pr oper ty e ven of a s ingle w h?
D oe s he k now w ha t 2 w h w ord s m ea n toge ther?
D oe s he k now the differe nce bet w een a djunc ts?
D oe s he k now the differe nce bet w ee n ar gum ents an d a djunc ts?
D oe s he k now how to use c ontex t to del im it m ea nings?
D oe s he k now the w ay t o do a ll the co mp onen t operat ions?
D oe s he k now the diff be twee n ye s/no an d w h?
D oe s he k now w ha t difference m ovem ent m ake s?
D oe s he k now w ha t a w h- w or d is?
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Twenty Questions - University of Massachusetts Amherst