ERIC Number: ED242197
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Jul
Reference Count: 0
Interpreting Wh- Questions in English, German, and Dutch. Report from the Project on Studies in Language: Reading and Communication. Working Paper No. 309.
Schreiber, Peter A.; Read, Charles
An investigation of the relative speed with which listeners comprehend and answer subject- and object-questions in English, German, and Dutch is reported. The primary data are the times required to answer pairs of questions such as, "Who is chasing the boy?" and "Who is the boy chasing?" and their counterparts in Dutch and German. In the three languages, the corresponding questions express the same semantic content, but in three different syntactic forms. The subject/object functions are signaled by word order in English, morphology in German, and context in Dutch. By noting which of the forms is responded to more rapidly in each language, insight may be gained into the roles these three kinds of cues play in comprehension. Subjects were adults and 7-year-olds tested in universities and schools in their native countries. Results showed that subject-questions are answered faster in Dutch and German, but object-questions are answered faster in English. It is suggested that this shows comprehension to be a highly interactive process drawing on multiple kinds of cues. However, an ambiguity in the English language results suggest a need for further investigation. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Wisconsin Univ., Madison. Research and Development Center for Individualized Schooling.