Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1369–1389 | Cite as

The Acquisition of Exhaustive Pairing in Multiple Wh-Questions in Mandarin

  • Jill de Villiers
  • Chunyan Ning
  • Xueman Lucy Liu
  • Yi Wen Zhang
  • Fan Jiang


The comprehension of paired wh-questions is examined in child Mandarin, to compare the age of acquisition with that of children speaking European languages like English and German. In Study 1, participants were 734 Mandarin speakers aged 2;6–7;11, drawn from four regions of China. Results reveal a striking parallel between the acquisition of exhaustive answers in Mandarin and that in languages with wh-movement. The significant correlation with children’s exhaustive interpretations of the universal quantifier every (dou) also parallels findings in English. In Study 2, the performance of children (N = 100) identified as having language impairment is compared to that of non-impaired children (N = 130), and the results support the idea that answering these paired wh-questions is a potential semantic deficit in language-delayed children.


Wh-questions Acquisition Assessment Mandarin Exhaustivity Semantic deficit 



This study was funded by Bethel Hearing and Speech Training Center Inc., Dallas TX.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The first three authors: Drs. de Villiers, Ning and Liu, are authors of the norm-referenced standardized test, the DREAM, and expect royalties from its sales. No conflict exists for authors Zhang and Jiang.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology and PhilosophySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of LinguisticsTianjin Normal UniversityTianjinChina
  3. 3.Research, Bethel Hearing and Speaking Training Center, Communication Sciences and DisordersUniversity of Texas at DallasDallasUSA
  4. 4.Department of Developmental and Behavioral PediatricsShanghai Children’s Medical Center Affiliated to Medical School of Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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