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Academic Paper


Title: Error patterns in young German children's wh-questions*
Author: Daniel Schmerse
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Elena V. Lieven
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: In this article we report two studies: a detailed longitudinal analysis of errors in wh-questions from six German-learning children (age 2 ; 0–3 ; 0) and an analysis of the prosodic characteristics of wh-questions in German child-directed speech. The results of the first study demonstrate that German-learning children frequently omit the initial wh-word. A lexical analysis of wh-less questions revealed that children are more likely to omit the wh-word was (‘what’) than other wh-words (e.g. wo ‘where’). In the second study, we performed an acoustic analysis of sixty wh-questions that one mother produced during her child's third year of life. The results show that the wh-word was is much less likely to be accented than the wh-word wo, indicating a relationship between children's omission of wh-words and the stress patterns associated with wh-questions. The findings are discussed in the light of discourse–pragmatic and metrical accounts of omission errors.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 40, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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