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The Role of Cross-Linguistic Variation in the Acquisition of Auxiliary Inversion in Wh-questions
Lidiya Tornyova and Virginia Valian
282-290 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Despite a long history of research, it is not clear why young English-speaking children show a relatively protracted period of development in wh-questions. The present study of elicited imitation of wh-questions by 29 English-speaking children aged 2;6 to 3;2 and 18 Bulgarian-speaking children aged 2;2 to 3;3 tests the hypothesis that cross-linguistic variation accounts for different patterns in acquisition. The data are interpreted in terms of a hypothesis-testing model in which cross-linguistic variation can be viewed as differences in the ease of narrowing down the hypothesis search space. The results indicate that the unique combination of language-specific structural characteristics of the target grammar, e.g., auxiliary-main verb dissociation, clause type differences and interrogative vs. relative pronoun homonymy in English, determine the types of errors children produce and the length of time required for acquisition.

Published in

Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2008)
edited by Jean Crawford, Koichi Otaki, and Masahiko Takahashi
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00