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||Friday 19 September, 2014
Grammatical and interpretive constraints on the development of wh-questions in L1 French
Authors: Faure and Palasis
The Acquisition of French wh-questions: Crossing diglossia and topicality
We investigate variation in wh-questions in Metropolitan French (see (1), overview in Myers, 2007) by examining new child data in the light of recent diglossic studies (Massot and Rowlett, 2013). We attempt to show that variation is syntactically and interpretively restrained.
The diglossic approach predicts that a speaker activates only one grammar per utterance. Applied to language acquisition, diglossia implies that children acquire two grammars (henceforth G1 and G2). Grammatical consistency has also been observed in child data between the morpho-syntactic status of subject clitics and the form of negation (Palasis, 2013), as in (2). Note that at this stage G2 barely appears in child speech.
We hypothesize that grammatical consistency extends to wh-questions, and make the prediction that the G1 and G2 sets of features will each emerge within a subset of wh-structures. This prediction is borne out (see Table 1). First, the agreement markers (G1) appear in wh-fronted (b) and wh-in situ (c) questions, while clitic-verb inversion (G2) surfaces only in fronted wh-questions (a). Crucially, wh-in situ is precluded with clitic-verb inversion (d), thus making wh-in situ a feature of G1 only. The absence of clitic-verb inversion in G1 also explains the rarity of wh+est-ce que forms in child speech (Strik 2008; our data), since est-ce is a verb-clitic sequence that belongs to G2. Est-ce que only cooccurs with que in our data, but we do not take these occurrences as counterexamples, since we consider the entire form as an unanalyzed chunk (in line with Hulk 1996).
This first part of our account based on diglossia places (1e) and (1f) in G2. We are left with four possible patterns in G1, whose distribution we propose to explain on the basis of topic switching (3a) vs. continuity (3b).
(1) a. il va où ? ‘he goes where’ b. c’est où qu’il va ? ‘it is where that he goes’
c. où il va ? ‘where he goes’ d. où c’est qu’il va ? ‘where is it that he goes’
e. où est-ce qu’il va ? ‘where is it that he goes’ f. où va-t-il ? ‘where goes he’
(2) a. G1 (agreement marker + simple negation): mais i voulait pas. (Lou, 4;9)
b. G2 (argument + discontinuous negation): mais lui il ne voulait pas. (Lou, 4;9)
‘but he did not want to’
(3) a. Ah oui et le gros i s’appelle comment? (Elena 4;10)
ptc yes and the fat.guy he=is called how
b. Comment i s’appelle le gros? (Elena 4;10)
‘What’s the fat guy’s name?’
Table 1: Distribution of the wh-questions in our corpus G1 G2
a. où es-tu Maman Ours ? (Carla, 3;5) ‘where are you Mummy Bear’ *
b. les cochons d’Inde où i[z] habitent ? (Liza, 4;2) ‘Guinea pigs where they live’ *
c. i va où l’éléphant ? (Massimo, 2;9) ‘he goes where the elephant’ *
d. *est-elle où la tortue ? ‘is she where the tortoise’ * *
e. *Où est-ce qu’il est ? ‘where is it that he is’ *
Hulk, A. 1996. The Syntax of Wh-Questions in Child French. in Amsterdam Series in Child Language Development, vol. 5, p. 129-172.
Massot, B., Rowlett, P. (Eds.), 2013. L'hypothèse d'une diglossie en France. JFLS, 23.
Myers, L. 2007. WH-interrogatives in Spoken French: a Corpus-Based Analysis of their Form and Function, Univ. of Texas at Austin: Doctoral dissertation.
Palasis, K. 2013. The case for diglossia: Describing the emergence of two grammars in the early acquisition of metropolitan French. JFLS 23:17-35.
Strik, N. 2008. Syntaxe et acquisition des phrases interrogatives en français et en néerlandais: une étude contrastive, U
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