This paper investigates the long-standing finding that young English-learning children produce why questions with a non-inverted word order long after they have learned to produce inversion with the remaining wh-phrases (Labov and Labov 1978). Previous research (Thornton 2004) has suggested that children make this non-adult-like error due to a misset parameter, pointing to the fact that why does not invert in other languages, such as Italian. However, previous research has focused on production, and not comprehension. In this paper, we investigate the comprehension capabilities of children who produce why questions with a non-inverted word order. We find that these children are perfectly adult-like in comprehension, suggesting the errors are not due to a misset parameter, but instead, a result of production. We suggest lexical overgeneration, with constraints on the production system, are responsible for children's apparent poor performance with why.
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
Table of contents