ERIC Number: ED206183
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Oct
Reference Count: 0
The Ontogenesis of Question Words in Children's Language.
Johnson, Carolyn E.
Questions asked in five play sessions by each of eight children aged 1.6 to 3.0 were analyzed for usage of the wh-interrogatives. About 93% of utterances using "what" and "where" were formulaic constructions (e.g., "Where's NP?" and "What's that thing?"). In order to determine whether children were cognitively segmenting these formulas and learning individual wh-words, the following observations were taken into consideration: (1) that repairs were observed in interrogatives with false starts; (2) that paradigmatic substitutions within formulaic interrogatives showed appropriate alternations (e.g., "What's that?" with "What're those?"); and (3) that wh-interrogatives confined to a single formula type in the first session at times were used in a variety of contexts by the same child in subsequent sessions. This third observation seems in part contradicted by a further observation that the child had not yet developed a what-where distinction by the third session. The following explanation is offered: A frame such as "Whusis?" ("What's this?") will be learned by a child as a unit whose wh-word is not perceived as conveying independent meaning; thus the wh-phoneme will represent a collocation of various wh-words, depending on the child's individual experience. The child becomes aware of the independence of the wh-interrogative and makes appropriate use of it in different speech acts, but the power of the original frame to govern a confusion between wh-words does not immediately diminish. (JB)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (5th, Boston, MA, October 10-12, 1980).