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Questions and disjunction in child language

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:23 authored by Nobuaki Akagi
"Two major theories stemming from nature vs. nurture debates are available in recent research of child language acquisition. This thesis is aimed at providing some empirical evidence that contributes to the ongoing debate between the two competing models of language acquisition, by investigating children's comprehension and production of questions and those containing disjunction words. The thesis consists of three sets of studies. Chapter 2 presents the cross-linguistic studies investigating children's comprehension of yes/no questions containing disjunction (i.e., Did John drink coffee or tea?) in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. It is argued that the findings from this study are best characterised by the continuity hypothesis offered by nativist models of language acquisition (Crain & Pietroski, 2001, 2002). The second set of studies presented in Chapter 3 investigates children's scope interpretation of negation and disjunction in yes/no questions (i.e., Did John not drink coffee or tea?) in Mandarin Chinese. Working within the Parameter-setting framework (Chomsky, 1981), it is proposed that children's interpretation of these questions is determined by the setting of a focus parameter associated with disjunction words. In Chapter 4, we report cross-linguistic similarities in children's production of questions. By analysing three longitudinal child speech corpora, we found that some Japanese-speaking children go through the stage in which question particle ka or no appear in yes/no questions, but the same question particles do not appear in wh-questions. This stage is analysed to be the same developmental stage in which English-speaking children invert an auxiliary or modal verb in yes/no questions, but not in wh-questions (e.g., Klima & Bellugi, 1966). The closing chapter (Chapter 5) summarises the three sets of the studies, and discuss some issues left open from the previous chapters." -- Abstract.


Table of Contents

1. Questions, disjunction and acquisition -- 2. Continuity or discontinuity? -- 3. Children's scope interpretations in Mandarin questions -- 4. The emergence of question particles in child Japanese -- 5. Finding innate parameters.


Includes bibliographical references A thesis submitted to the Department of Cognitive Science in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of: Doctor of Philosophy in cognitive science at Macquarie University Sydney, Australia, June 2012

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stephen Crain

Additional Supervisor 1

Rosalind Thorton


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Nobuaki Akagi 2013.




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