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ERIC Number: EJ864718
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 43
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 40
ISSN: ISSN-1048-9223
Children's Interpretation of Focus Expressions in English and Mandarin
Notley, Anna; Zhou, Peng; Crain, Stephen; Thornton, Rosalind
Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, v16 n4 p240-282 2009
Children often produce nonadult responses to sentences with the focus operator only, such as "Only the cat is holding a flag." For example, children often accept this sentence as a description of a situation in which a cat holds a flag and a duck holds both a flag and a balloon. One proposed analysis, by Paterson, Liversedge, Rowland & Filik (2003), contends that children disregard "only" in such sentences, yielding "The cat is holding a flag." An alternative proposal by Crain, Ni & Conway (1994) maintains that children misassign only to the VP, yielding "The cat is only holding a flag." The findings of experimental studies with two typologically distinct languages, English and Mandarin Chinese, support Crain et al.'s (1994) analysis. We propose, further, that children pass through a stage at which "only" is analyzed as a sentential adverb taking scope over both the subject NP and the VP. We address the questions of why children initially adopt this analysis, and how they converge on the adult grammars of these languages. (Contains 18 footnotes and 10 figures.)
Psychology Press. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A