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Title: The acquisition of Wh-questions by Cypriot-Greek children
Author: Papadopoulou, Elena
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2014
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Effortless and rapid first language acquisition has raised numerous questions about the way children overcome the difficulty of decoding, understanding and producing complex input and output. This thesis tries to answer some of these questions by investigating how 2;0 - 4;0 year old children acquire Cypriot Greek (CG) wh-questions. It focuses on the question of whether children of that age have adult-like syntactic representation or whether their word combinations are based on stored formulaic units such as What;s that?or Where's the X? CG questions are interesting as speakers can choose between different word orders (Subject+Wh+Verb and Wh+Verb+Subject) and both orders can be combined with the optional element embu-'is-it-that'. Thus, children have to learn different ways of asking wh-questions. The thesis is based on (i) a newly created corpus with spontaneous and elicited CGdata from 8 children (2; 1-3;9), their mothers and a researcher, and (ii) a syntactic-priming experiment with 103 two-to-six year old children and 27 adults. The corpus analysis shows that even two-year old children use wh-questions productively with different wh-word+verb combinations. The priming results show that both child and adult participants are more likely to produce one of the two word-order options for CG-questions if they had heard and produced this order before than when they had heard a different order. This effect occurred even when participants had not heard the verb in this word order before. Participants also produced embu, but mostly only when they had heard it before. Taken together, the results suggest that even two-to-three year old children have abstract, non-fonnulaic, syntactic representations for whquestions, which can be pre-activated, i.e. "primed", through prior presentation of a structurally identical wh-question even when this question involved different words. The thesis also makes a contribution to the description of CG wh-question by providing a syntactic analysis for utterances involving embu. Some researchers have argued that embu involves a complex cleft-construction (Grohmann et al., 2006). However, in this thesis it is demonstrated that embu cannot be negated, is invariant in tense and does not show the semantic properties that are associated with cleft-sentences. This suggests that embu has been grammaticalized as a focus particle.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available