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Twenty Questions. Jill de Villiers Smith College Tom Roeper U.Mass, Amherst. ASHA, November 2003, Chicago. The Acquisition Challenge. Grammar is automatic in adults. We are not conscious of much structure. Questions involve many intricate steps

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twenty questions

Twenty Questions

Jill de Villiers

Smith College

Tom Roeper

U.Mass, Amherst.

ASHA, November 2003, Chicago.

the acquisition challenge
The Acquisition Challenge
  • 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
We will choose twenty structures involving questions, and describe:
  • The grammar involved- the mechanism
  • The meaning entailed in using them
  • The variations that occur cross-linguistically
  • What we know about normal acquisition
  • Where things could go wrong.
question 1 what s a wh word made up of
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 of5
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 of6
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 of7
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 of8
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
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 do10
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 do11
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 do12
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 do13
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
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 questions15
Question 3: Yes/no questions
  • What’s the meaning?
  • Evaluation of a proposition
question 3 yes no questions16
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 questions17
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
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
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 questions20
Question 4: Tag questions
  • What’s the meaning?
  • Doubt about assertion
  • Asks for listener confirmation
question 4 tag questions21
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 questions22
Question 4: Tag questions
  • What’s the acquisition path?

1.Non-copying form first

    • He can sing, huh?

2. Brown & Hanlon (1970) Adam uses Tag-questions only after:

inversion, negation, and pronominalization have been acquired.

question 4 tag questions23
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
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 accommodation25
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 accommodation26
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 accommodation27
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 accommodation28
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
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
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
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 adjuncts32
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 adjuncts-

why is last

(deVilliers (1991), Thornton (2003))

question 6 expected questions arguments and adjuncts33
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
Question 7: Why and How
  • 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 how35
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 how36
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 how37
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 how38
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
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

slide40

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

slide41

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 wh42
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 wh43
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 wh44
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 wh45
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
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 sets47
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 sets48
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 sets49
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 sets50
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
Question 10: Superiority
  • What’s the mechanism?
  • Minimize movement
in contrast
In contrast:

The question

"What can who eat?"

involves a longer movement,

violating the principle of economy.

question 10 superiority53
Question 10: Superiority
  • What’s the meaning?
    • As before, paired wh-sets.
    • Is superiority a purely syntactic constraint or focus difference?
    • German allows superiority violation
    • 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 superiority54
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 superiority55
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 superiority56
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
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 x58
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 x59
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 x60
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 x61
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
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 x63
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 x64
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 x65
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 x66
Question 12: Whose X?
  • What’s the potential for mis-steps?

Hoekstra et al (1992)found children mis-understanding 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
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
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 whom69
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 whom70
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 whom71
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
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 whom73
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
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 middle-

the clause boundary- then to the front. The following illustrates this.

question 14 long distance movement75
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 movement76
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 movement77
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 movement78
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
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 clauses80
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 clauses81
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.

slide82

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 clauses83
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 clauses84
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
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 barriers86
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 barriers87
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 barriers88
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 barriers89
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
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 questions91
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 questions92
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 questions93
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 questions94
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 wh-word 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.

slide95

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
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 barriers97
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 barriers98
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 barriers99
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?

slide100

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 barriers101
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
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 traces103
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 traces104
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 traces105
Question 19: Traces

There seem also to be languages that connect wh- to 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 traces106
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 traces107
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
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 auxiliary-inversion:
  • * Did he see where did they go?
question 20 embedded wh109
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 wh110
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 wh111
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 wh-clauses, 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
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 ?

slide115
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 wh116
Question 20: Embedded wh
  • What’s the potential for mis-steps?
  • Children could mistake the forms for wh-questions 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
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
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
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.