GRS LX 700
Language Acquisition
and
Linguistic Theory
Week 12.
Acquirers and questions
English wh-questions

What will John bake?

Two components to forming a (main
clause) wh-question (in English):
Move a wh-word to SpecCP.
 Move T to C (Subject-Aux Inversion—SAI)

Question formation

Declarative: John will buy coffee.


Wh-inversion: What will John buy?
Wh-fronting: What will John buy?
Yes/No-inversion: Will John buy coffee?

Greenberg (1963):

Wh-inversion implies Wh-fronting.
 Yes/No-inversion implies Wh-inversion.

Wh-inversionWh-fronting

English, German: Both.


Japanese Korean: neither.


John will buy what?
Finnish: Wh-fronting only.


What will John buy?
What John will buy?
Unattested: Wh-inversion only.

*Will John buy what?
Y/N-inversionWh-inversion

English: Both


Japanese: Neither


John will buy coffee? John will buy what?
Lithuanian: Wh-inversion only.


Will John buy coffee? What will John buy?
John will buy coffee? What will John buy?
Unattested: Y/N-inversion only.

Will John buy coffee? What John will buy?
Universals and parameters


Even if it’s not completely clear what accounts
for the implicational universals, inversion and
wh-fronting do seem to be independent.
A kid needs to learn what his/her language does
in each domain.


Wh-inversion implies Wh-fronting: Perhaps the only
reason you’d move T to C is to get a [wh] feature
originally on T into a position where it can be checked
by a wh-word in SpecCP (Wh-criterion, see Guasti).
Y/N-inversion implies Wh-inversion: ?
Kids get these parameters
down early



Guasti (2000): Adam, Eve, and Sarah pretty
much never left wh-words in situ, and when they
did it was generally in a (grammatical) echo
question.
Same with inversion, there seem to be very few
(on the order of 1%) errors of non-inversion in
German, Italian, Swedish.
Yet Bellugi (1971)—very famously—seemed to
find something different in English… Stages:

SAI in yes-no questions, not in wh-questions


Notice this runs counter to Greenberg’s univeral.
SAI in positive questions, not in negative questions.
Kuczaj & Maratsos (1983)
Form
Abe
Ben

Uninv
Inv
Uninv
Inv
can
2;5
2;11
2;6
2;10
is (cop)
2;7
3;1
2;4
2;8
are (cop)
2;9
3;0
2;7
2;10
is (aux)
3;0
3;0
2;7
3;1
are (aux)
3;0
3;1
2;10
3;0
will
3;0
3;1
2;10
2;10
Kids seem to
learn
auxiliaries
one by one;
they appear
at different
times.
Kuczaj & Maratsos (1983)
Form
Abe
Ben

Uninv
Inv
Uninv
Inv
can
2;5
2;11
2;6
2;10
is (cop)
2;7
3;1
2;4
2;8
are (cop)
2;9
3;0
2;7
2;10
is (aux)
3;0
3;0
2;7
3;1
are (aux)
3;0
3;1
2;10
3;0
will
3;0
3;1
2;10
2;10
Each
auxiliary
seems be
first used
outside of
inversion
contexts,
only later in
inversions
Kuczaj & Maratsos (1983)
Form
Abe
Ben

Uninv
Inv
Uninv
Inv
can
2;5
2;11
2;6
2;10
is (cop)
2;7
3;1
2;4
2;8
are (cop)
2;9
3;0
2;7
2;10
is (aux)
3;0
3;0
2;7
3;1
are (aux)
3;0
3;1
2;10
3;0
will
3;0
3;1
2;10
2;10
Only
correctly
inverted
verbs
(auxiliaries)
appear in
child speech
(no inversion
of main
verbs)
A famous non-result: SAI in
YNQs before SAI in whQs

YNQs
Inv Uninv
3;0 0
1
WhQs
Inv Uninv
0
3
3;5 198 7
3;8
9
33
22
5
Adam: At a certain
point, inversion
appears in yes-no
questions—but
inversion with whquestions is still
infrequent. Soon
afterwards, inversion is
frequent for both types
of questions.
A famous non-result: SAI in
YNQs before SAI in whQs


Problem is, seems to be true of Adam’s
files, but not true generally…
Several later studies with better sampling
show no identifiable stage where yes-no
questions invert while wh-questions
don’t—in fact, even the frequency doesn’t
go in one direction for all kids.
Stromswold (1990, table 5.5)
% of inversion WHQ vs.YNQ
Child
Adam
Allison
WH
88.3
85.7
YN
96.6
100
Child
Nathan
Nina
WH
60.1
98.5
YN
46.2
93.9
April
Eve
Mark
Naomi
91.7
95.5
97.9
96.2
94.1
87.2
97.6
94.2
Peter
Ross
Sarah
Shem
92.1
99.3
92.9
95.6
98.5
97
91.9
79
MEAN
93
93.7
Conclusion really seems to
be


Kids will sometimes fail to invert.
Kids will sometimes fail to invert more in
one construction (e.g., wh-questions) than
in another (e.g., yes/no-questions), but
which one gets the advantage seems to
vary by kid.
SAI errors: doubling

A double-auxiliary error, both an inverted
and an un-inverted auxiliary:
Why did you did scare me?
 How can he can look?


A “double-tensing” error (where an
auxiliary moves to I but the verb surfaces
with tense).
What did you bought?
 What did you did?

Doubling errors


Are the kids pronouncing a “loud trace” of
(head-)movement? (Are they moving the
auxiliary but failing to leave the trace
unpronounced?) That would be
interesting.
Are they just forgetting what they are
trying to say midway through and
“blending” two structures? (one with and
one without movement)
Nakayama (1987)

The longer the subject is, the more likely a
kid is to make a doubling error; the length of
the VP makes no difference.


Is [the boy who is watching Mickey] is happy?
Looks like blending, rather than the (more
interesting) “loud trace” idea… Common
error type:

Is [the boy who is watching M], is he happy?
Inversion in negation

Guasti, Thornton & Wexler (BUCLD 1995)
looked at doubling in negative questions.

Previous results (Bellugi 1967, 1971,
Stromswold 1990) indicated that kids tend
to invert less often in negative questions.
First: True?
 Second: Why?

GTW (1995)

Elicited negative questions…
I heard the snail doesn’t like some things to
eat. Ask him what.
 There was one place Gummi Bear couldn’t
eat the raisin. Ask the snail where.
 One of these guys doesn’t like cheese. Ask
the snail who.
 I heard that the snail doesn’t like potato chips.
Could you ask him if he doesn’t?

GTW (1995)

Kids got positive questions right for the
most part.
88% of kids’ wh-questions had inversion
 96% of kids’ yes-no questions had inversion
 Except youngest kid (3;8), who had inversion
only 42% of the time.


Kids got negative declaratives right without
exception, with do-support and clitic n’t.
GTW (1995)


Kids got lots of negative wh-questions wrong.
Aux-doubling


Neg & Aux doubling


Why can’t she can’t go underneath? (4;0)
No I to C raising (inversion)


What kind of bread do you don’t like? (3;10)
Where he couldn’t eat the raisins? (4;0)
Not structure

Why can you not eat chocolate? (4;1)
GTW (1995)

But kids got negative subject wh-questions
right.


…as well as how-come questions.


which one doesn’t like his hair messed up? (4;0)
How come the dentist can’t brush all the teeth? (4;2)
Re: Not structure


Why can you not eat chocolate? (4;1)
Kids only do this with object and adjunct whquestions—if kids just sometimes prefer not instead
of n’t, we would expect them to use it just as often
with subject wh-questions.
GTW (1995)

So, in sum:
Kids get positive questions right
 Kids get negative declaratives right
 Kids get negative subject questions right.
 Kids get negative how-come questions right.


Kids make errors in negative whquestions where inversion is required.
Where inversion isn’t required (or where
the sentence isn’t negative), they’re fine.
GTW (1995)

The kids’ errors all seem to have the character
of keeping negation inside the IP.





What did he didn’t wanna bring to school? (4;1)
What she doesn’t want for her witch’s brew? (3;8)
Why can you not eat chocolate? (4;1)
Why can’t she can’t go underneath? (4;3)
GTW propose that this is a legitimate option;
citing Paduan (Italian dialect) as a language
doesn’t allow neg->C.
GTW (1995)


Re: subject and how come questions…
In a subject question, we don’t know that the
subject wh-word got out of IP—maybe kids left it
in IP… heck, maybe even adults do.



Who left?
*Who did leave?
How come questions don’t require SAI in the
adult language{./?}


How come John left?
*How come did John leave?
“Auxless questions”

Guasti (2002) discusses questions like



Where Daddy go? (Adam 2;3)
What I doing? (Eve 2;0)
By making some assumptions (inherited from
Rizzi), Guasti finds these problematic. Whmovement requires SAI, so what moved to C?

Specifically, wh-movement depends on SAI, which
happens because [+wh] starts on T and must move to
C so it can be in a Spec-head relation with the whword in SpecCP. Also: subject questions need no
inversion on this story.
Auxless questions

Auxless questions are relatively common among
wh-questions in the 2-4 age range.


Guasti/Rizzi’s suggestion: An auxiliary at the head of
the root can be null (similar to the null subject story).
For adults, the head of the root is ForceP, but for kids
it might be lower (FocP, where wh-words go).
Kids who might otherwise say What I doing? will
nevertheless not say Who laughing?. Subject
wh-questions seem immune from “auxiliary
drop.”


The Guasti/Rizzi explanation is pretty contrived,
actually. The aux need not proceed as high as FocP
for subject questions, so it ends up not being highest.
Not really any clear alternative, though…
Early, early wh-questions



There may be an early “formulaic” stage where
kids ask questions by just asking “Wh(’s) NP?”.
O’Grady (1997): “Because of their formulaic
character, it seems reasonable to treat these
utterances as instantiations of a simple template
rather than the product of whatever mechanism
forms wh-questions in the adult grammar.”
But why? We already have lots of reason to
think young kids know a lot about adult grammar
by then… What is simpler about a “simple
template”?
Wh-subjects and wh-objects

Is there a difference in the timing of
emergence between subject wh-questions
and object wh-questions? In English, there
is an apparent difference in complexity
(“distance” of movement, SAI).
Early, early, early wh-questions



Seidl and Hollich (2003) looked at
headturn preferences in really young kids.
Minimizes demands of task
Use looking preferences to “answer” whquestions.
What hit the apple?
 What did the apple hit?
 Where is the apple?

Seidl et al.


Kids saw a little simplistic computergenerated movie where, e.g., a book hit
some keys.
Then there were two screens presented
side by side, one with a book displayed,
one with keys displayed.
What hit the keys? (book)
 What did the book hit? (keys)
 Where is the book? (book)

Seidl et al.

1.4
1.2
1
13mo
15mo
20mo

0.8
0.6
0.4

0.2
0
-0.2
subj
obj
where
Graph shows
differences (target
minus non-target).
20-month-olds
seemed quite capable
of comprehending all
three kinds.
15-month-olds
couldn’t do objects;
13-month-olds
couldn’t do any.
Processing, structural
distance

The distance between the base and
derived positions for an object wh-word is
greater than the distance between the
base and derived positions for a subject
wh-word.

Whati did [IP John [VP buy ti ]] ?

Whoi
[IP ti [VP bought coffee ]] ?
Processing, structural
distance

Re: preference for subject wh-questions;
perhaps kids are sensitive to the number
of phrases a moving wh-phrase has to
escape. This also makes other predictions:
Whati will [IP Sue [VP read ti ]]?
 Whati will [IP Sue [VP talk [PP about ti ]]]?
 Whati will [IP Sue [VP read
[NP a book [PP about ti ]]]]?

Hildebrand (1987)

Tested (fairly old) kids on a paradigm of
wh-questions of varying “depth” to see if
more embedded wh-words are harder.

In a repetition task (4-10 year olds), it was
almost uniformly true that the more deeply
embedded the wh-word was, the more
errors the kids made trying to repeat it.
But wait…

So kids make more errors extracting from more
deeply embedded structures. Is this a fact
about the acquisition of wh-movement? Or is it
just a fact about language processing in
general?

What do adults do?

My guess: Even for adults, the more complex
structures are (marginally) harder to process.
Certainly true for subject vs. object relative clauses
(the man who _ left vs. the man who I met _).

Cf. NPAH later.
Does child wh-movement obey
the adult rules for whmovement?

When the kids ask wh-questions,
what structures are they using? Are
they like the adult structures? If not,
how are they different? Are they
performing movement? Are there
traces? Do the movements obey
constraints (e.g., wh-island, ECP, …)?
Do kids have wh-traces in
their wh-questions?

How do they perform on wannacontraction?
Who do you want to help t?
 Who do you wanna help t?
 Who do you want t to help you ?
 *Who do you wanna / t help you ?


Crain & Thornton (1991) studied this…
Crain & Thornton (1991)

There are three guys in this story: Cookie
Monster, a dog, and this baby. One of
them gets to take a walk, one gets to take
a nap, and one gets to eat a cookie. The
rat gets to choose who does each thing.
So one gets to take a walk, right? Ask
Ratty who he wants.

Kid: Who do you want to take a walk?
Crain & Thornton (1991)

The kids (2;10 to 5;5) all knew the wanna
contraction rule…

59% of the time kids contracted to wanna
with object questions (as allowed)

4% of the time kids contracted to wanna
with subject questions (out for adult)
The ECP and argumentadjunct asymmetries

Moving a wh-word out of a wh-island is
better or worse depending on whether the
wh-word is an argument (subject or object)
or an adjunct.
*How did he ask [wh where to fix the car t ]?
 What did he ask [wh how to fix t ] ?

De Villiers, Roeper, and
Vainikka (1990)

[Kid takes a shortcut home, rips dress, that
night, kid tells parent about dress]





When did she say t [she ripped her dress t]?
“at night”
“that afternoon”
When did she say t [wh how she ripped her dress t t ]?
“at night”
*“that afternoon”
3-6 year-olds allow short and long distance
questions for complement clauses, don’t like
long distance adjunct questions out of whislands…
De Villiers, Roeper, and
Vainikka (1990)




And kids make the argument-adjunct
distinction the ECP makes for adults:
No wh-island, arguments/adjuncts both
take long distance interpretation about 3040% the time
Argument wh-island, neither argument nor
adjuncts can move out (2-8% LD)
Adjunct wh-islands, arguments can move
out (30% LD) but not adjuncts (6% LD).
Again, kids have a lot right—
but what do they have wrong?

When kids make a mistake with a question
like…


When did she say how she ripped her dress?
…it will often be that they answer
something like “climbing over the fence”—
answering the question How did she say t
she ripped her dress? instead.

What are kids doing when
they answer a medial whword?
Are they answering the last wh-word they
saw?

Kids don’t answer medial wh-words in yes-no
questions.


Did Mickey tell Minnie what he bought?
Kids don’t answer wh-words in relatives.

How did you meet the man who sang?
German partial whmovement?

Kids have been observed to produce questions
with an initial wh-word and a lower copy.

What do you think what’s in her hat?


What do you think where the marble is?


‘What do you think is in her hat?’
‘Where do you think the marble is?’
What do you think what Cookie Monster eats?

‘What do you think Cookie Monster eats?’
German partial whmovement?

Was hat er gesagt
[ wie er das Kuchen machen kann ]?



What has he said how he the cake make can
‘How did he say he could make the cake?’
Are kids treating the upper wh-word like a scope
marker? (Are they “speaking German”?)

Hard to say with confidence, but it’s an interesting
possibility. German partial wh-movement does have
certain restrictions. Thornton (1990) and van Kempen
(1997) showed that kids do this only out of finite
clauses, and German only allows partial movement
out of finite clauses too.
Processing constraints?

O’Grady (last year’s textbook) suggests that
another reason why kids might answer the
intermediate wh-word is that they’ve already
forgotten the matrix clause (citing Phinney 1981,
who found that 3-year olds often delete the
matrix subject and verb when repeating
biclausal sentences).

Kids don’t answer a medial wh-word in a yes-no
question, though..?
Speaking Irish? French?

Another crosslinguistic analogy we could make
is to Irish, French, and other languages that
seem to show a certain amount of “whagreement” when a wh-word passes through
SpecCP.




Ceapann tú go bhuailfidh an píobare an t-amhrán.
think you that play.fut the piper the song
‘You think that the piper will play the song.’
Caidé aL cheapann tú aL bhuailfidh an píobare?
what WH think you WH play.fut the piper
‘What do you think the piper will play?’
Je crois que Marie est partie.
Qui crois-tu qui et partie?
Speaking Irish? French?

So, perhaps the kids’ non-adult use of
intermediate wh-words is actually a mis-analysis
of English.

First, they suppose it is Irish, and the intermediate whwords are the pronunciations of agreeing
complementizers.


Then, they suppose it is French, and limit the
agreement to subject wh-words.


A medial wh-word is never a whole wh-phrase. A head?
Sometimes production goes from S&O medial wh-questions
to just S.
Then, they get to English.
Other constraints on whmovement from 3-5 year olds

They reject adjunct extraction from NP


But they allow argument extraction…?



Whoi did the mother show [his copying ti] ?
This is de Villiers’ example; seems ambiguous to me
between extraction and non-extraction readings. Better
might be What did the mother show his eating?
They reject adjunct extraction from rel. clause


*Howi did the mother see [his riding ti]?
*Howi did [the woman who knitted ti] swim?
And reject extraction from temporal adjuncts

*Who did the elephant ask [before helping ti ]?
Superiority 3-5

Adults:
Whoi ti slept where?
 *Wherei did who sleep ti ?


And the kids seem to have that down cold.
(Kid: It’s better if I start.)

(from deVilliers and Plunkett, unpublished as of
1995?)
That-trace?

Who did the pig believe that swam in the pond?


Kids opt for the interpretation where the questions
asks which, of the animals the pig believes, swam.
Kids don’t go at all for the interpretation which entails
a violation of that-trace (the pig believed that who
swam)


(Phinney 1981)
This is sort of mysterious, since languages differ
as to whether they respect the that-trace filter.
That-trace?

Some conflicting results?

Thornton (1990), production experiment
found that-trace violations 18% of the time
subject wh-questions were used.

McDaniel, Chiu and Maxfield (1995) found
an acceptance rate of 24% for that-trace
effects.
Grammar vs. Preferences



These experiments are really testing preferences
not grammaticality. If they prefer the that-less
variant, we won’t see that-trace violations even if
they are strictly grammatical for the kid.
Just because a structure is dispreferred (for
whatever reason—frequency, difficulty, etc.) does
not mean that it is ungrammatical in the child’s
grammar.
Preferences are not the best route to discovering
the properties of child grammar, though it’s hard
to design grammaticality judgment experiments..
Questioning out of quotations

Adult languages generally can not
question out of a quotation:



*Whati did the boy say “Can I bring ti” ?
But English, French and German kids (3-6
years) seem to allow it.
Why?
Correlates to questioning out
of quotations


Kids may not quite grasp the quotation yet.
A significant proportion of kids around the
same age range allow co-reference between
a pronoun in the quotation and the subject:


“Hei can sit here” said Mickeyi.
Perhaps, it has more to do with the fact that it
requires “getting into someone else’s head”…
False beliefs

Kids before a certain age (usually before 4)
seem unable to take another person’s
perspective:

Little rabbit puts carrot in red basket, leaves.
Mother rabbit comes in, moves carrot to blue
basket. Little rabbit comes back. Where does he
look for the carrot?

Some kids will answer “the blue basket”—unable
to see that the little rabbit shouldn’t have known.
False beliefs & quotations

Those same kids who answered “blue basket”
were also those who would do this:


Mother bought cake, but wanted to surprise girl.
When asked, mother claimed to have bought
paper towels.
What did Mother say she bought?

The “blue basket” kids answer “cake.”
False beliefs & quotations

So, perhaps it is understanding what a
quotation is that is allowing kids to extract
from them—they treat a quotation as a
regular clausal complement.
Weak islands

In the adult language, there is a certain
configuration which seems to create an
island for movement of wh-adjuncts, which
arguably has to do with the logical
meaning.
Coming by train is a subset of the events
coming.
 John said Mary was coming by train implies
John said Mary was coming.

Weak islands

In weak islands the implication fails:

Negation:
John didn’t say Mary was coming by train.
 John didn’t say Mary was coming.


Factives:
John forgot Mary was coming by train.
 John forgot Mary was coming.


With quantificational adverbs:
John often eats grapes with a fork.
 John often eats grapes.

Weak islands

And in those cases, you can’t extract whadjuncts in the adult language.

Whyi did John say (ti) that Mary left (ti)?

Whyi did John forget (ti) that Mary left (*ti)?

Whyi didn’t John say (ti) that Mary left (*ti)?

Whyi does John often say (ti) that Mary left (*ti)?
Weak islands

Four-year-olds have been observed to fail on the
implication:



Jim forgot that his aunt was arriving by train, so he
went to the bus station to pick her up… Did Jim forget
that his aunt was coming?
—Yes!
Guess: They haven’t gotten the implication
pattern down for these non-monotonicincreasing environments.
Weak islands

Now: If kids haven’t gotten the implication
pattern, and if the implication pattern is
implicated in the islandhood, do kids fail to
observe weak islands just when they also
fail on the implication pattern?

Philip and de Villiers (1992) looked into
this…
Philip and de Villiers (1992)

Kids never allow LD association out of a whisland (they obeyed the purely syntactic
constraint).


*Whyi did the mother ask [what he made ti ]?
The other facts were “generally in support”(de
Villiers 1995) of the conclusion that where kids
fail to make the inferences required by nonmonotone-increasing environments, they also
fail to treat them as movement islands.
Multiple questions

A fair amount of theoretical work has
concerned the treatment of multiple whquestions.


E.g., the wh-typology: English (move one) vs.
Japanese (move none) vs. Bulgarian (move
all).
What do kids do with them?

Well, but that’s lunacy—adults barely use
them, how are we going to find out about
kids?
Grebenyova (2005)

Russian as a multiple-movement language:


chto kuda Smurf polozhil?
What where S put?
Interpretation:



PL (Pair-list): Who invited who for dinner?
SP (Single pair): Which diplomat invited which
journalist? Who invited the roommate of who for
dinner?
Who invited who for dinner?


English, Russian: PL, *SP
Serbo-Croatian, Japanese: PL, SP:
Grebenyova (2005)

Ok, let’s check CHILDES (parental speech).
Varvara (1;7-2;11).
737 single questions.
 1 multiple question.



kto tebe chto podaril ?
Whonom you whatacc gave?
Not very much input here.
Grebenyova (2005)



Attempts to elicit multiple interrogatives.
Story: 3 characters each hide a different thing.
Characters and items not in a natural category


Add a character who doesn’t hide anything (and
pointing that out).


Avoiding: What did everyone hide?
Not mentioning the names of the characters in the
lead-in


Avoiding: Which x hid which Y? Who hid which X? Which x
hid what?
Avoiding: What did they hide?
First time: single question. Decide to ask a more
difficult question next time.
Grebenyova (2005)


And it worked: Kids (and adult controls)
produced multiple wh-questions in PL contexts
(but not SP contexts) about a third of the time in
English, about half the time in Russian.
Syntax: English kids did it like adults. Russian
kids 15% of the time did it like English
kids/adults:

*Kto sprjatal chto?
Who hid what
Grebenyova (2005)

Tried non-subjects and adjuncts to figure out more
about the syntax:




Found some wh-in-situ for kids, both notably both for
kids and adults found about two-thirds multiple fronting
and one-third partial fronting:


Who hid what?
Who did Lizard give what?
Who did the dog find where?
Kogo sobaka gde nashia?
Who dog where found
Perhaps (for wh-in-situ; but partial fronting?)


Acquisition of focus?
Mixed/confusing input (which phrases can stay in situ)?










Stepping back a bit

Let’s take some time to look at a few
results coming out of an earlier tradition,
not strictly Principles & Parameters (and
not covered by White) but still suggesting
that to a certain extent L2 learners may
know something (perhaps unconsciously)
about “what Language is like” (which is a
certain way we might characterize the
content of UG).
Typological universals



1960’s and 1970’s saw a lot of activity
aimed at identifying language universals,
properties of Language.
Class of possible languages is smaller
than you might think.
If a language has one property (A), it will
necessarily have another (B).

+A+B, –A–B, –A+B but never +A–B.
(Typological) universals

All languages have vowels.

If a language has VSO as its basic word order,
then it has prepositions (vs. postpositions).
VSO?
Adposition type
Yes
No
Prepositions
Postpositions
Welsh
None
English
Japanes
e
Markedness




Having duals implies having plurals
Having plurals says nothing about having duals.
Having duals is marked—infrequent, more complex.
Having plurals is (relative to having duals) unmarked.
Generally markedness is in terms of comparable
dimensions, but you could also say that being VSO is
marked relative to having prepositions.
Markedness




“Markedness” actually has been used in
a couple of different ways, although
they share a common core.
Marked: More unlikely, in some sense.
Unmarked: More likely, in some sense.
You have to “mark” something marked;
unmarked is what you get if you don’t
say anything extra.
“Unlikeliness”

Typological / crosslinguistic infrequency.


More complex constructions.


[ts] is more marked than [t].
The non-default setting of a parameter.


VOS word order is marked.
Non-null subjects?
Language-specific/idiosyncratic
features.

Vs. UG/universal features…?
Berlin & Kay 1969: Color
terms



(On the boundaries of psychophysics,
linguistics, anthropology, and with issues
about its interpretation, but still…)
Basic color terms across languages.
It turns out that languages differ in how
many color terms count as basic. (blueish,
salmon-colored, crimson, blond, … are not
basic).
Berlin & Kay 1969: Color
terms

The segmentation of experience by speech symbols is
essentially arbitrary. The different sets of words for color in
various languages are perhaps the best ready evidence
for such essential arbitrariness. For example, in a high
percentage of African languages, there are only three
“color words,” corresponding to our white, black, red,
which nevertheless divide up the entire spectrum. In the
Tarahumara language of Mexico, there are five basic color
words, and here “blue” and “green” are subsumed under a
single term.
 Eugene Nida (1959)
Berlin & Kay 1969: Color
terms










Arabic (Lebanon)
Bulgarian (Bulgaria)
Catalan (Spain)
Cantonese (China)
Mandarin (China)
English (US)
Hebrew (Israel)
Hungarian (Hungary)
Ibibo (Nigeria)
Indonesian (Indonesia)










Japanese (Japan)
Korean (Korea)
Pomo (California)
Spanish (Mexico)
Swahili (East Africa)
Tagalog (Philippines)
Thai (Thailand)
Tzeltal (Southern Mexico)
Urdu (India)
Vietnamese (Vietnam)
Eleven possible basic color
terms








White, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown,
purple, pink, orange, gray.
All languages contain term for white and black.
Has 3 terms, contains a term for red.
Has 4 terms, contains green or yellow.
Has 5 terms, contains both green and yellow.
Has 6 terms, contains blue.
Has 7 terms, contains brown.
Has 8 or more terms, chosen from {purple, pink,
orange, gray}
Color hierarchy







White, black
Red
Green, yellow
Blue
Brown
Purple, pink, orange, gray
Even assuming these 11 basic color terms, there should
be 2048 possible sets—but only 22 (1%) are attested.
Color terms







Jalé (New Guinea) ‘brilliant’ vs. ‘dull’
Tiv (Nigeria), Australian aboriginals in
Seven Rivers District, Queensland.
BWRG
Ibibo (Nigeria), Hanunóo (Philippines)
BWRY
Ibo (Nigeria), Fitzroy River people (Queensland)
BWRYG
Tzeltal (Mexico), Daza (eastern Nigeria)
BWRYGU Plains Tamil (South India), Nupe (Nigeria), Mandarin?
BWRYGUO Nez Perce (Washington), Malayalam (southern India)
BW
BWR
Color terms


Interesting questions abound, including why
this order, why these eleven—and there are
potential reasons for it that can be drawn
from the perception of color spaces which
we will not attempt here.
The point is: This is a fact about Language:
If you have a basic color term for blue, you
also have basic color terms for black, white,
red, green, and yellow.
Implicational hierarchy




This is a ranking of markedness or an
implicational hierarchy.
Having blue is more marked than having (any or
all of) yellow, green, red, white, and black.
Having green is more marked than having red…
Like a set of implicational universals…





Blue implies yellow
Blue implies green
Yellow or green imply red
Red implies black
Red implies white
Brown implies blue
Pink implies brown
Orange implies brown
Gray implies brown
Purple implies brown
L2A?




Our overarching theme:
How much is L2/IL like a L1?
Do L2/IL languages obey the language
universals that hold of native languages?
This question is slightly less theory-laden
than the questions we were asking about
principles and parameters, although it’s
similar…
To my knowledge nobody has studied L2
acquisitions of color terms…
Question formation

Declarative: John will buy coffee.


Wh-inversion: What will John buy?
Wh-fronting: What will John buy?
Yes/No-inversion: Will John buy coffee?

Greenberg (1963):

Wh-inversion implies Wh-fronting.
 Yes/No-inversion implies Wh-inversion.

Eckman, Moravcsik, Wirth
(1989)




L1: Korean (4), Japanese (6), Turkish (4)
L2: English
Note L1s chosen because they are
neither/neither type languages, to avoid
questions of transfer.
Subjects tried to determine what was
going on in a scene by asking questions.
Eckman, Moravcsik, Wirth
(1989)

Example Y/N Qs:
Did she finished two bottle wine?
 Is Lou and Patty known each other?
 Sue does drink orange juice?
 Her parents are rich?
 Is this story is chronological in a order?
 Does Joan has a husband?
 Yesterday is Sue did drink two bottles of
wine?

Eckman, Moravcsik, Wirth
(1989)

Example Wh-Qs:
Why Sue didn’t look solution for her problem?
 Where Sue is living?
 Why did Sue stops drinking?
 Why is Patty’s going robbing the bank?
 What they are radicals?
 What Sue and Patty connection?
 Why she was angry?

Eckman et
al. (1989)
wh-inv
whfronting?
results
%
Whinv
%
Whfr
SM K
25
NO
100
YES
UA
T
54
NO
100
YES
TS
J
70
NO
100
YES
MK K
80
NO
100
YES
RO J
88
NO
100
YES
KO
J
95
YES
100
YES
MH J
95
YES
100
YES
NE
T
95
YES
100
YES
SI
J
95
YES
100
YES
G
T
100
YES
100
YES
MA T
100
YES
100
YES
ST
J
100
YES
100
YES
TM
K
100
YES
100
YES
YK
J
100
YES
100
YES
%
Eckman et
al. (1989)
YN-inv.
wh-inv.?
results
YNinv
%
WHinv
SM
K 8
NO
25
NO
MK
K 38
NO
80
NO
YK
J 51
NO
100 YES
TS
J 67
NO
70
TM
K 83
NO
100 YES
RO
J 85
NO
88
BG
T 86
NO
100 YES
MA
T 88
NO
100 YES
UA
T 91
YES
54
NO
KO
J 93
YES
95
YES
MH
J 95
YES
95
YES
NE
T 100
YES
95
YES
SI
J 100
YES
95
YES
ST
J 100
YES
100 YES
NO
NO
Eckman, Moravcsik, Wirth
(1989)
Yes/no inversion
Wh-inversion
Yes (VS)
No (SV)
Yes (VS)
5
4
No (SV)
1
4
Eckman’s Markedness
Differential Hypothesis

Markedness. A phenomenon or structure X in some
language is relatively more marked than some other
phenomenon or structure Y if cross-linguistically the
presence of X in a language implies the presence of Y,
but the presence of Y does not imply the presence of X.



Duals imply plurals.
Wh-inversion implies wh-fronting.
Blue implies red.
(…but what counts as a “phenomenon or structure”?)
Markedness Differential
Hypothesis

MDH: The areas of difficulty that a second language learner
will have can be predicted on the basis of a comparison of
the NL and TL such that:





Those areas of the TL that are different from the NL and are
relatively more marked than in the NL will be difficult;
The degree of difficulty associated with those aspects of the TL that
are different and more marked than in the NL corresponds to the
relative degree of markedness associated with those aspects;
Those areas of the TL that are different than the NL but are not
relatively more marked than in the NL will not be difficult.
Notice that this is assuming conscious effort again. Perhaps
it need not, depending on how you interpret “difficulty” but it
seems like Eckman means it this way.
Another possible way to look at it is in terms of parameter
settings and (Subset Principle compliant) defaults, coupled
with a FT/FA type theory…
MDH example:
Word-final segments





Voiced obstruents
Voiceless obstruents
Sonorant consonants
Vowels
most marked
Surge
Coke
Mountain
least marked
Coffee
All Ls allow vowels word-finally—some only allow vowels.
Some (e.g., Mandarin, Japanese) allow only vowels and
sonorants. Some (e.g., Polish) allow vowels, sonorants,
but only voiceless obstruents. English allows all four
types.
Eckman (1981)
e
e
IL form
[b p]
[b bi]
[rt]
[w t]
[sIk]
Mandarin L1
Gloss
IL form
Tag
[tæg ]
And
[ænd ]
Wet
[w t]
Deck
[dk]
Letter
[lt r]
Bleeding
[blidIn]
e
e
c
c
e
Spanish L1
Gloss
Bob
Bobby
Red
Wet
Sick
MDH example:
Word-final segments





Voiced obstruents
Voiceless obstruents
Sonorant consonants
Vowels
most marked
Surge
Coke
Mountain
least marked
Coffee
Idea: Mandarin has neither voiceless nor voiced obstruents in
the L1—using a voiceless obstruent in place of a TL voiced
obstruent is still not L1 compliant and is a big markedness
jump. Adding a vowel is L1 compliant. Spanish has voiceless
obstruents, to using a voiceless obstruent for a TL voiced
obstruent is L1 compliant.
MDH and IL




The MDH presupposes that the IL obeys
the implicational universals too.
Eckman et al. (1989) suggests that this is at
least reasonable.
The MDH suggests that there is a natural
order of L2A along a markedness scale
(stepping to the next level of markedness is
easiest).
Let’s consider what it means that an IL
obeys implicational universals…
MDH and IL




IL obeys implicational universals.
That is, we know that IL is a language.
So, we know that languages are such that having
word-final voiceless obstruents implies that you also
have word-final sonorant consonants, among other
things.
What would happen if we taught Japanese L2
learners of English only—and at the outset—voiced
obstruents?
Generalizing with
markedness scales






Voiced obstruents
Voiceless obstruents
Sonorant consonants
Vowels
most marked
Surge
Coke
Mountain
least marked
Coffee
Japanese learner of English will have an easier time at
each step learning voiceless obstruents and then voiced
obstruents.
But—if taught voiced obstruents immediately, the fact that
the IL obeys implicational (markedness) universals
means that voiceless obstruents “come for free.”
Nifty!


Does it work? Does it help?
Answers seem to be:
Yes, it seems to at least sort of work.
 Maybe it helps.


Learning a marked structure is harder. So, if
you learn a marked structure, you can
automatically generalize to the less marked
structures, but was it faster than learning
the easier steps in succession would have
been?
The Noun Phrase
Accessibility Hierarchy






Keenan & Comrie (1977) observed a hierarchy among the kinds of
relative clauses that languages allow.
The astronaut [(that) I met yesterday].
Head noun: astronaut
Modifying clause:
(that/who) I met — yesterday.
Compare: I met the astronaut yesterday.
This is an object relative because the place where the head noun would
be in the simple sentence version is the object.
The Noun Phrase
Accessibility Hierarchy


There are several kinds of relative clauses, based
on where the head noun “comes from” in the
modifying clause:
The astronaut…






[I met — yesterday]
[who — met me yesterday]
[I gave a book to —]
[I was talking about —]
[whose house I like —]
[I am braver than —]
object
subject
indirect object
obj. of P
Genitive (possessor)
obj. of comparative
The Noun Phrase
Accessibility Hierarchy

Turns out: Languages differ in what positions
they allow relative clauses to be formed on.

English allows all the positions mentioned to be
used to make relative clauses.
Arabic allows relative clauses to be formed only
with subjects.
Greek allows relative clauses to be formed only
with subjects or objects.


Resumptive pronouns




The guy who they don’t know whether he wants to
come.
A student who I can’t make any sense out of the
papers he writes.
The actress who Tom wondered whether her
father was rich.
In cases where relative clause formation is not
allowed, it can sometimes be salvaged by means
of a pronoun in the position that the head noun is
to be associated with.
NPAH and resumptive
pronouns

Generally speaking, it turns out that in languages which do not allow
relative clauses to be formed off a certain position, they will instead
allow relative clauses with a resumptive pronoun in that position.

Arabic: allows only subject relative clauses. But for all other positions
allows a resumptive pronoun construction, analogous to:



The book that John bought it.
The tree that John is standing by it.
The astronaut that John gave him a present.
NPAH

The positions off which you can relativize
appears to be an implicational hierarchy.
Lang.
Arabic
Greek
Japanes
e
Persian
SUB
–
–
–
DO
+
–
–
IO
+
+?
–
OP
+
+?
–
GEN OCOMP
+
+
+
+
+/ –
–
(+)
+
+
+
+
Noun Phrase Accessibility
Hierarchy

More generally, there seems to be a
hierarchy of “difficulty” (or
“(in)accessibility”) in the types of relative
clauses.
A language which allows this…

Subj > Obj > IO > OPrep > Poss > OComp

Noun Phrase Accessibility
Hierarchy

More generally, there seems to be a
hierarchy of “difficulty” (or
“(in)accessibility”) in the types of relative
clauses.
A language which allows this…
Will also allow these.

Subj > Obj > IO > OPrep > Poss > OComp


Noun Phrase Accessibility
Hierarchy

More generally, there seems to be a
hierarchy of “difficulty” (or
“(in)accessibility”) in the types of relative
clauses.
A language which allows this…
Will also allow these. But not these…

Subj > Obj > IO > OPrep > Poss > OComp


Relation to L2A?




Suppose that KoL includes where the target
language is on the NPAH.
Do L2’ers learn the easy/unmarked/simple
relative clauses before the others?
Do L2’ers transfer the position of their L1 first?
Does a L2’ers interlanguage grammar obey this
typological generalization (if they can relativize a
particular point on the NPAH, can they relativize
everything higher too?)?
NPAH and L2A?



Probably: The higher something is on the NPAH, the easier
(faster) it is to learn.
So, it might be easier to start by teaching subject relatives,
then object, then indirect object, etc. At each step, the
difficulty would be low.
But, it might be more efficient to teach the (hard) object of a
comparison—because if L2’ers interlanguage grammar
includes whatever the NPAH describes, knowing that
OCOMP is possible implies that everything (higher) on the
NPAH is possible too. That is, they might know it without
instruction. (Same issue as before with the phonology)
NPAH in L2A

Very widely studied implicational universal
in L2A—many people have addressed the
question of whether the IL obeys the
NPAH and whether teaching aa marked
structure can help.

Eckman et al. (1989) was about this
second question…
Change from pre- to post-test
Eckman, Bell, & Nelson (1988)
8
7
6
Subj Group
Obj Group
O.P. Group
Controls
5
4
3
2
1
0
Subj
Obj
O.P.
Transfer, markedness, …

Do (2002) looked at the NPAH going the
other way, EnglishKorean.
English: Relativizes on all 6 positions.
 Korean: Relativizes on 5 (not OCOMP)

S
SU do
IO
OP GE
13
+
+
+
+
+
14
+
+
+
+
-
16
+
+
+
-
-
29
+
+
-
-
-
31
+
-
-
-
-
20
-
-
-
-
-
Transfer, markedness, …



The original question Do was looking at
was: Do English speakers transfer their
position on the NPAH to the IL Korean?
But look: If English allows all 6 positions,
why do some of the learners only relativize
down to DO, some to IO, some to
OPREP?
It looks like they started over.
Subset principle?
A tempting analogy… in some
cases, parameters seem to be
ranked in terms of how
permissive each setting is.

I
E
Null subject parameter
Option (a): Null subjects are permitted.
 Option (b): Null subjects are not permitted.


Italian = option a, English = option b.
Reminder: Subset Principle

The idea is




If one has only positive evidence, and
If parameters are organized in terms of
permissiveness,
Then for a parameter setting to be learnable, the
starting point needs to be the subset setting of the
parameter.
The Subset principle says that learners should
start with the English setting of the null subject
parameter and move to the Italian setting if
evidence appears.
I
E
Reminder: Subset Principle
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The Subset Principle is basically that learners
are conservative—they only assume a
grammar sufficient to generate the sentences
they hear, allowing positive evidence to serve to
move them to a different parameter setting.
Applied to L2: Given a choice, the L2’er
assumes a grammatical option that generates a
subset of the what the alternative generates.
Does this describe L2A?
Is this a useful sense of markedness?
Subset principle and
markedness
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Based on the Subset principle, we’d expect the
unmarked values (in a UG where languages are
learnable) to be the ones which produce the “smallest”
grammars.
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Given that in L1A we don’t seem to see any “misset”
parameters, we have at least indirect evidence that the
Subset principle is at work. Is there any evidence for it in
L2A? Do these NPAH results constitute such evidence?
Subset vs. Transfer
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The Subset Principle, if it operating, would say that L2A
starts with all of the defaults, the maximally conservative
grammar.
Another, mutually exclusive possibility (parameter by
parameter, anyway) is that L2A starts with the L1 setting.
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This means that for certain pairs of L1 and L2, where the L1 has
the marked (superset) value and L2 has the unmarked (subset)
value, only negative evidence could move the L2’er to the right
setting.
Or, some mixture of the two in different areas.
NPAH and processing?
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At least a plausible alternative to the NPAH results
following from the Subset Principle is just that
relative clauses formed on positions lower in the
hierarchy are harder to process. Consider:
The astronaut…
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who [IP t met me yesterday]
who [IP I [VP met t yesterday]]
who [IP I [VP gave a book [PP to t ]]]
who [IP I was [VP talking [PP about t ]]]
whose house [IP I [VP like [DP t ’s house]]]
who [IP I am [AP brave [degP -er [thanP than t ]]]]
SUB
DO
IO
OPREP
GEN
OCOMP
NPAH and processing?
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If it’s about processing, then the reason
L2’ers progress through the “hierarchy”
might be that initially they have limited
processing room—they’re working too
hard at the L2 to be able to process such
deep extractions.
Why are they working so hard?
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(Well, maybe L2A is like learning history?)
NPAH and processing?
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Is the NPAH itself simply a result of processing?
The NPAH is a typological generalization about
languages not about the course of acquisition.
Does Arabic have a lower threshhold for
processing difficulty than English? Doubtful.
The NPAH may still be real, still be a
markedness hierarchy based in something
grammatical, but it turns out to be confounded
by processing.
So finding evidence of NPAH position transfer is
very difficult.
Subset problems?
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One problem, though, is that many of the
parameters of variation we think of today don’t
seem to be really in a subset-superset relation.
So there has to be something else going on in
these cases anyway.
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VT
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Yes: √SVAO, *SAVO
No: *SVAO, √SAVO
Anaphor type
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Monomorphemic: √LD, *Non-subject
Polymorphemic: *LD, √Non-subject
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GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory