Wh-question and focus construction in Bengali : word order variation and acquisition
AuthorRahman, Syed Shahrier
In this study we have tested Bengali adult native speakers’ word order choices with respect to information structure and have compared their preferences to the Bengali native children acquirers. The study shows that Bengali word order scrambling is available in various type of sentences like declaratives, wh-questions and focus constructions. The scrambling is not at all optional in this language; in contrast it works as a diagnostic to determine the information structure of the sentence. According to the findings of this research, Bengali adults’ word order preferences for declarative sentences are not the same as wh-questions. Moreover, information structure in Bengali motivates the adults to choose different word orders for the focus constructions with respect to wh-questions. For example, large numbers of Bengali adults prefer to put the focus element after the verb while they do not prefer the same thing for wh-questions. However, preverbal base generated and preverbal scrambling focus elements are also prominent in the adult data. In fact, Bengali language allows in-situ contrastive focus (i.e. focus element is base generated) and scrambling contrastive focus (i.e. focus element is moved from its base position). Therefore, Bengali adults use both of these techniques to produce contrastive focus. Since most of the adults prefer scrambling to produce contrastive focus constructions, we can say that the contrastive focus scrambling bear strong information packaging and therefore the constituents of a sentence are rearranged in different word order. The study also revealed that in almost all cases, Bengali children pick up the technique of correlating information structure and word order scrambling quickly and regarding word order choices, they behave in the same way as the adults. However most of the children in our experiment prefer in-situ contrastive focus. Considering all limitations of our experiment we can say that Bengali children acquire the technique of in-situ focus early in compare to the other way of constructing contrastive focus. In this study, we have designed a set of experiments to test the correlation between the word order scrambling and the information structure. Since it is necessary to find out the factors behind this correlation, one experiment has been designed for the adults and the other has been designed for the children. The main objective of these experiments is to collect natural responses from the Bengali adults and the children. Even though two experiments are not entirely identical with each other, we only consider the conclusive data-values to get a relatively concrete result. The present study is concluded with an assumption that the study should be conducted in future with a larger amount of data. As a result, it will be possible to get more convincing answer.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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