This study investigates whether young Japanese-speaking children can resolve structural ambiguities between Topic-Object sequence and N(oun)-N compound by using prosodic information. Snyder (1995, 2001) claims that the availability of nominal compounding in a given language is constrained by the Compounding Parameter, which also restricts the possibility of complex predicate constructions. Languages such as English, Japanese, and Korean exhibit the positive setting of this parameter, allowing both properties. Previous studies have demonstrated that children speaking English and Japanese acquire these two properties at the same time, around three years of age (Snyder and Stromswold 1997, Sugisaki and Isobe 2000). In contrast, Choi and Mazuka (2003) report that Korean-speaking children did not reliably interpret ambiguous sentences as involving a nominal compound. Yet, one of their methodological problems is that every test sentence was presented without any context. The author investigates experimentally whether Japanese-speaking children can disambiguate ambiguous sentences containing a nominal compound when accompanied by appropriate discourse contexts and prosody. 13 three-year-olds were tested with a version of the Truth-Value Judgment Task (Crain and Thornton 1998), the results of which demonstrated that participants have no difficulty in resolving ambiguity. These results not only provide a new piece of evidence that they have adult-like knowledge with respect to nominal compounding, but lend further support to the theory of Compounding Parameter.
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
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