Usage-based vs. Rule-based Learning: The Acquisition of Word Order in Wh-Questions in English and Norwegian
This paper discusses different approaches to language acquisition in relation to children’s acquisition of word order in wh-questions in English and Norwegian. While generative models assert that children set major word order parameters and thus acquire a rule of subject-auxiliary inversion or generalized verb second (V2) at an early stage, some constructivist work argues that English-speaking children are simply reproducing frequent wh-word + auxiliary combinations in the input. The paper questions both approaches, re-evaluates some previous work, and provides some further data, concluding that the acquisition of wh-questions must be the result of a rule-based process. Based on variation in adult grammars, a cue-based model to language acquisition is presented, according to which children are sensitive to minor cues in the input, called micro-cues. V2 is not considered to be one major parameter, but several smaller-scale cues, which are responsible for children’s lack of syntactic (over-)generalization in the acquisition process.
PublisherCambridge University Press
CitationJournal of Child Language (2009), vol. 36 (5):1023-1051
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