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Rules vs. Constructions A debate on question-acquisition Lucia Pozzan, Lidiya Tornyova & Virginia Valian IASCL 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Rules vs. Constructions A debate on question-acquisition Lucia Pozzan, Lidiya Tornyova & Virginia Valian IASCL 2011."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Rules vs. Constructions A debate on question-acquisition Lucia Pozzan, Lidiya Tornyova & Virginia Valian IASCL 2011

3 Special thanks to Language Acquisition Research Center Team Margarita Zeitlin Nathan LaFave Paul Feitzinger Erin Quirk Syelle Graves 2

4 English Main Questions Subject-Auxiliary Inversion Declarative: John is eating pizza Yes/no question: Is John eating pizza? Wh-question: What is John eating? Children’s questions: lack of inversion Why my dog is digging a hole? Katie’s brother is feeding the doll? 3

5 Our View Input is important but it is not the only factor Differences in syntactic properties are reflected in the input and, therefore, in inversion patterns across languages Children analyze input in terms of syntactic features, categories, and operations 4

6 Research Questions Study 1 (Tornyova & Valian): Are inversion patterns in acquisition determined by syntactic properties of the adult language (reflected in the target input)? Study 2 (Pozzan & Valian): Can input frequency alone account for inversion patterns in English-learning children? 5

7 Study 1: Tornyova & Valian Both Bulgarian and English display inversion in main wh- and yes/no questions Different properties of question formation Bulgarian English 6

8 Elicited Imitation 4 groups: 2 Bulgarian (n=27, ages 2;2 - 3;3; Mean 2;9 ) 2 English (n=20, ages 2;4 - 3;2; Mean 2;9) Imitated 24 wh- or yes/no questions 7

9 Procedure Bulgarian wh-question Kude e igral Ivan s tebe? Where aux-sum played Ivan with you Bulgarian yes/no question S tebe li e igral Ivan? With you li aux-sum played Ivan English wh-question Where did John play with you? English yes/no question Was John playing ball with you? 8

10 Inversion by Question Type 9

11 Summary Children are sensitive to the syntactic regularities that underlie input differences Level of syntactic consistency predicts differences in performance 10 Bulgarian English

12 Study 2 Elicited Production and Input Do frequencies of questions in the adult input account for children’s production patterns? How should frequency of inversion be measured? Are production patterns better accounted for in terms of abstract categories (e.g., arguments vs. adjuncts)? 11

13 L1 Production Participants & Materials N = 38 monolingual children Age: 4;3 (Median: 4;2 Range: 3;2-5;8) SPELT: 33/40 Materials: 16 main questions 12 auxiliarywh-yes/no is 4 (what, which, why, when) 4 are 4 (what, which, why, when) 4 Total 88

14 Protocol This is an asking game. This is Katie and this is her mom. Katie wants to know some things. We are going to help her ask her mom questions. “Why my dog is digging a hole?” 13

15 Question-type correctnon-inversion no aux double aux other 14 Wilcoxon Signed Ranks: Z = 2.5, p=.012

16 Wh-type correctnon-inversion no aux double aux other 15 Wilcoxon Signed Ranks: Z = 2.5, p=.011

17 Wh- by auxiliary 16 correctnon-inversion no aux double aux other

18 Can (token) frequency in adult input account for the observed pattern? No input data on these particular children. Assumption: adult input to children is fairly homogeneous 17

19 How to measure frequency? Absolute Frequency (inverted main questions ): Inverted wh-: Why are you laughing? Inverted yes/no: Are you laughing? Relative Frequency (inverted main / all questions): Non inverted wh-: I don’t know why you are laughing. Non inverted yes/no: You are laughing? 18

20 CHILDES Corpora SEARCH: Wh-elements: what, which, when, why Auxiliary and copula: is, are Corpus# ChildrenAge RangeAdult Input Utterances Bates271;8-2;411,274 Bloom 7031;4-2;1040,385 Clark12;3-3;232,349 Gleason242;1-5;237,698 Snow12;3-3;919,801 Valian211;9-2;826,250 Total771;8-5;2167,757 19

21 Absolute Frequency (inverted questions) Corpus Question-Type WhatWhichWhenWhyYes/No Bates Bloom Clark Gleason Snow Valian Total6, ,740 20

22 Relative Frequency (inverted/all questions) Corpus Question-type WhatWhichWhenWhyYes/No Bates 735/760 (97%) 5/5 (100%) 3/3 (100%) 19/21 (90%) 258/336 (77%) Bloom /1428 (94%) 19/22 (86%) 12/13 (92%) 33/35 (94%) 1056/1447 (73%) Clark 1092/1190 (92%) 17/20 (85%) 2/5 (40%) 125/132 (95%) 299/766 (45%) Gleason 1008/1205 (84%) 28/29 (96%) 4/4 (100%) 27/33 (82%) 487/772 (63%) Snow 800/283 (97%) 24/27 (89%) 5/5 (100%) 21/25 (84%) 59/70 (84%) Valian 1423/1599 (89%) 37/38 (97%) 6/10 (60%) 14/17 (83%) 581/919 (63%) Total 6397/7005 (91%) 130/141 (92%) 32/40 (80%) 239/263 (91%) 2740/2210 (65%) 21

23 Results  Absolute Frequency: errors should occur in which, when and why  Relative Frequency: errors should occur in yes/no and when-questions  Results: inversion errors only occur in when and why questions 22

24 Take-home Message Study 1: input does matter! A grammar in which operations are implemented uniformly is a ‘simpler’ grammar Study 2: elements pattern together according to syntactic category, not just (token) frequency In progress: Token vs. Type Frequency Wh- + is/are + NP combinations Relative frequency (counting all inverted and non-inverted strings) 23

25 Bonus Slide Wh- + is/are + NP combinations 24 AuxiliaryNP-Subject WhatWhenWhichWhyYes/no is brother/dog/he other Total (is) are you other Total (are)

26 25 Bonus Slide 2 Overall Correct Imitation Bulgarian- and English-speaking children show similar overall correct imitation rates


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