Wh-Questions, Universal Statements and Free Choice Inferences in Child Mandarin
- 218 Downloads
This study investigated 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking children’s comprehension of wh-questions, universal statements and free choice inferences. Previous research has found that Mandarin-speaking children assign a universal interpretation to sentences with a wh-word (e.g., shei ‘who’) followed by the adverbial quantifier dou ‘all’ (Zhou in Appl Psycholinguist 36:411–435, 2013). Children also compute free choice inferences in sentences that contain a modal verb in addition to a wh-word and dou (Zhou, in: Nakayama, Su, Huang (eds.) Studies in Chinese and Japanese language acquisition: in honour of Stephen Crain. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, pp 223–235, 2017). The present study used a Question-Statement Task to assess children’s interpretation of sentences containing shei + dou, both with and without the modal verb beiyunxu ‘was allowed to’, as well as the contrast between sentences with shei + dou, which are statements for adults, versus ones with dou + shei, which are wh-questions for adults. The 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking child participants exhibited adult-like linguistic knowledge of the semantics and pragmatics of wh-words, the adverbial quantifier dou, and the deontic modal verb beiyunxu.
KeywordsWh-questions Free choice inferences Adverbial quantifier dou Child Mandarin Language acquisition
This research was supported in part by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorder (CE110001021). In addition, the research was supported by an International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship to Haiquan Huang (No. 2014016). Peng Zhou and Stephen Crain are members of the the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorder, Macquarie University. For helpful feedback and discussion, we thank Jim Huang, Gennaro Chierchia, Lyn Tieu, Yimei Xiang and Cory Bill. Finally, we express our sincere thanks to Juan Cai for her assistance in conducting the experiments at the kindergarten affiliated with the Hubei University of Technology.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
All of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study has also received the Ethics Approval from Faculty of Human Science-Human Research Ethics Sub-Committee, Macquarie University, Australia and the ethics reference number is 5201500028.
- Cheng, L. L.-S. (1991). On the typology of wh-questions. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
- Cheng, L. L.-S. (1994). Wh-words as polarity items. Chinese Languages and Linguistics, 2, 615–640.Google Scholar
- Chierchia, G. (2010). Meanings as inferences: The polarity system. Manuscript.Google Scholar
- Chomsky, N. (1966). Current issues in linguistic theory. The Hague: Mouton & Co., Printers.Google Scholar
- Crain, S., & Thornton, R. (1998). Investigations in universal grammar: A guide to experiments on the acquisition of syntax and semantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Fox, D. (2007). Free choice and the theory of scalar implicatures. In U. Sauerland & P. Stateva (Eds.), Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics (Palgrave studies in pragmatics, language and cognition) (pp. 71–120). Houndmills, Basingstoke & Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Haspelmatch, M. (1997). Indefinite pronouns. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Huang, C.-T. J. (1982). Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar. Doctoral dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
- Kratzer, A., & Shimoyama, J. (2002). Indeterminate pronouns: The view from Japanese. In Y. Otsu (Ed.), Proceedings of the third Tokyo conference on psycholinguistics (pp. 1–25). Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo.Google Scholar
- Lee, T. H.-T. (1986). Studies on quantification in Chinese. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.Google Scholar
- Liao, C.-H. (2010). Alternative and exhaustification: Non-interrogative uses of Chinese wh-words. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.Google Scholar
- Lin, J.-W. (1996). Polarity licensing and wh-phrases in Chinese. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
- Pan, H.-H. (2006). Focus, tripartite structure, and the semantic interpretation of Mandarin dou. Research and Exploration on Grammar, 13, 163–184. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
- Wexler, K., & Culicover, P. (1980). Formal principles of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Zhang, L., Li, B.-L., & Pan, H.-H. (2012). The semantic requirements of dou: A study of its rightward association. Studies in Language and Linguistics, 32, 63–71. (in Chinese).Google Scholar