Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Publication Title

Proceedings of the 30th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD)


The goal of this paper is to explore how children acquire the syntactic and semantic properties of multiple interrogatives. Consider the examples of multiple interrogatives from English in (1) and from Russian in (2). (1) Who bought what? (2) Kto čto kupil? [Russian] who what bought ‘Who bought what?’ Already we can see the syntactic differences between these two languages: in English, only one wh-phrase is fronted, while in Russian, as in all Slavic languages, all wh-phrases are fronted. Moreover, there are some semantic differences in multiple interrogatives across languages, which will be demonstrated in section 2. These language-specific properties must be acquired by the child from the available input. After examining the availability and the nature of the relevant cues in the input, I conclude that there is very little evidence in the input with respect to the syntax and semantics of multiple interrogatives. Therefore, this is an interesting area for the study of language acquisition, since we will be able to see what hypotheses the learners make in the absence of reliable evidence in the input.



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