easily imagined errors

Enrique Figueroa E. efiguero at CAPOMO.USON.MX
Sun Apr 20 03:48:54 UTC 1997

As usual, I won't take sides with this or the other school or sect,
but... The comments included herein seem to me (as well as a child's
linguistic behaviour, at least in many, many languages) conclusive as to
this fact: the basic pattern is the same both for questions and
assertions and could even remain the same for both in some languages or
varieties of a certain language... The difference (which I attribute to a
semantic-communicative need of the child) springs at some stage and
basically consists of different intonation patterns.

On Sat, 19 Apr 1997, Daniel L. Everett wrote:

> On Sat, 19 Apr 1997, Brian MacWhinney wrote:
> > these "easy
> > to imagine errors" are not actually ones that ever occurred to the child.
> > The child never tries to derive questions from the corresponding
> > declaratives (as several previous email messages have noted).  Because of
> > this, the linear movement or transformation generalization was not one that
> > the child was considering in the first place.
> Brian, I never said that this is what happened. My point is independent
> of such an approach (although I think that you and the several previous
> email messages are somewhat incorrect - neither Chomsky nor most other
> generative linguists believe that the interrogative is formed from the
> declarative. However, there is solid evidence that both involve displaced
> constituents. These may be accounted for derivationally or
> representationally, the choice is irrelevant for my arguments. Also, for
> my arguments it is irrelevant whether you accept the statement about
> displaced constituents. The point is that the child knows/learns structure.
> >   I agree that the question is how the child accesses semantic structure in
> > a disciplined enough way to avoid egregious errors.
> I never said this either. This is one possibility (that the child uses
> semantics). The other is Chomsky's - that the child uses syntax or a
> combination of syntax and semantics. This is an empirical issue.
> > To explore this, we
> > don't need the hard examples.  We can just look at a sentence like "Is
> > Daddy coming?"  There is a pretty rich child language literature on the
> > development of questions.  For this type of question, there appears to be a
> > stage when the aux is missing and we have just "Daddy coming?"  The
> > intonation is there, as is the verb and the subject.  Only later, it
> > appears, does the child add the aux.  I think this path makes sense.  The
> > most uniform, reliable marker of the question across types in English is
> > the intonation.  That gets mapped first, along with the core proposition.
> > Then the embroidery gets added later.  The aux wasn't moved, it was just
> > added.  When we get to the harder examples, the story is the same, since
> > the complex-NP subject is a cognitive unit the child doesn't look to it for
> > the required aux.
> This is a very simple story, Brian. Sounds plausible. The problem you are
> going to have convincing a generative syntactician is that it shows too
> little knowledge of the complexities of structure-dependency. The
> "cognitive unit" business is just hand-waving.

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