Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (5.12 MB)

Interface conditions in child language: a view from Mandarin Chinese

Download (5.12 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 20:21 authored by Peng Zhou
Knowing a language includes knowledge of several basic components - syntax, semantics, pragmatics and phonology. Each of these components has its own properties, but they also interact with one another. The interactions between these different levels of linguistic knowledge are called interface conditions. In recent years, the study of interface conditions has attracted increasing interest in both theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics, since knowing how different linguistic representations interact is crucial to understanding how the language processing system operates in the human brain. This thesis by publication investigates the interface conditions as they are manifested in child language. Specifically, we look at how different levels of linguistic knowledge contribute to children's interpretation of three interface phenomena: focus interpretation, wh-quantification and scope assignment. The investigation of each interface phenomenon centres on the following questions. (i) What's the nature of linguistic representations underlying children's understanding of this interface phenomenon? (ii) To what extent do these representations differ from those of adults? (iii) What developmental processes underlie the differences between children and adults? Data from child Mandarin is reported to address these questions. Mandarin Chinese has some special properties, which are less observable in most other languages. This makes Mandarin particularly insightful for evaluating certain aspects of language development, including interface conditions. The reasons for this will be explained throughout the thesis. The thesis is structured as follows. Chapter 1 provides the introduction. Chapter 2 looks at focus identification in child Mandarin, concentrating on whether children adhere to syntactic constraints in computing the meanings of focus structures. Chapter 3 explores the role of prosody in the resolution of ambiguities by Mandarin-speaking children, focusing on children's use of phonological information (i.e., pitch accent and intonation) to arrive at an adult-like interpretation. Chapter 4 examines wh-quantification in child Mandarin, focusing on whether children are sensitive to the licensing environments for the non-interrogative use focusing on whether Mandarin-speaking children access both interpretations for sentences with a universal quantifier and negation. Chapter 6 summarizes the major findings of these studies and discusses their implications for current issues in the field of language acquisition.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Focus identification in child Mandarin -- Chapter 3. The role of prosody in children's ambiguity resolution -- Chapter 4. Wh-quantification in child Mandarin -- Chapter 5. Scope assignment in child language: evidence from the acquisition of Chinese -- Chapter 6. Conclusions.


"A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of: Doctor of Philosophy" Thesis by publication. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stephen Crain

Additional Supervisor 1

Rosalind Thornton

Additional Supervisor 2

C.-T. James Huang


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Peng Zhou 2010.




1 online resource (ix, 257 pages) illustrations

Former Identifiers


Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager