The Incidence of Error in Young Children's Wh-Questions Many current generativist theorists suggest that young children possess the grammatical principles of inversion required for question formation but make errors because they find it difficult to learn language-specific rules about how inversion applies. The present study analyzed longitudinal spontaneous sampled data from twelve 2–3-year-old English speaking children and the ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2005
The Incidence of Error in Young Children's Wh-Questions
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Caroline F. Rowland
    University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Julian M. Pine
    University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Elena V. M. Lieven
    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
  • Anna L. Theakston
    University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Contact author: Caroline Rowland, School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Bedford Street South, Liverpool, L69 7ZA, United Kingdom. E-mail: crowland@liverpool.ac.uk
  • Julian M. Pine is now at the University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.
    Julian M. Pine is now at the University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.×
Article Information
Development / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2005
The Incidence of Error in Young Children's Wh-Questions
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2005, Vol. 48, 384-404. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/027)
History: Received October 2, 2003 , Revised April 1, 2004 , Accepted July 26, 2004
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2005, Vol. 48, 384-404. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/027)
History: Received October 2, 2003; Revised April 1, 2004; Accepted July 26, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 27

Many current generativist theorists suggest that young children possess the grammatical principles of inversion required for question formation but make errors because they find it difficult to learn language-specific rules about how inversion applies. The present study analyzed longitudinal spontaneous sampled data from twelve 2–3-year-old English speaking children and the intensive diary data of 1 child (age 2;7 [years;months] to 2;11) in order to test some of these theories. The results indicated significantly different rates of error use across different auxiliaries. In particular, error rates differed across 2 forms of the same auxiliary subtype (e.g., auxiliary is vs. are), and auxiliary DO and modal auxiliaries attracted significantly higher rates of errors of inversion than other auxiliaries. The authors concluded that current generativist theories might have problems explaining the patterning of errors seen in children's questions, which might be more consistent with a constructivist account of development. However, constructivists need to devise more precise predictions in order to fully explain the acquisition of questions.

Acknowledgments
This study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, R000236393 and RES000220241. We would like to thank all the families who took part in the research reported here, Ewa Dąbrowska, Jeremy Miles, John and Mildred Hadwin for their comments on a draft, and Mildred and John Hadwin, George and Elsie Rowland, and Rachel Edden for their role in data collection. Part of this article was presented at the Child Language Seminar, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, United Kingdom, 2003, and the 6th Annual Gregynog Conference on Child Language, Nant Gwrtheyrn, United Kingdom, 2004.
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