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Mastering the question: the acquisition of interrogative clauses by Finnish-speaking children
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts.
1995 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to chart the development of interrogative syntax among Finnish-speaking children between the ages of 1 to 4 years living in Sweden. The material consists of language samples taken from eleven Sweden-Finnish children with Finnish as their first language. The data from the corpus have been compared with acquisition studies of Finnish-speaking children in Finland, with material from an adult-language corpus and with studies of children speaking other languages than Finnish.

The first questions appearing in the corpus are wh-questions, on average at the age of 1.9 and one month earlier than yes/no-questions. Both wh-questions and yes/no-questions are produced by all children in the corpus, whereas disjunctive questions are used by only one child. Wh-questions comprise approximately two thirds of the interrogatives and yes/no-questions a third; only one disjunctive question is used. The older the child, the greater the proportion of yes/no-questions.

The earliest wh-question words are tnikä 'what' nom. sg., missä 'where' and mita 'what' part, sg., used by one-year-olds. Kuka 'who' nom. sg., mihin 'where to' and miten 'how' all appear before the age of 2.6, and miksi 'why1, mista 'where from' and minkä 'what* acc. 1 sg. start being used before the age of three. The use of milloin 'when', kenen 'whose', minkä varinen 'of what color' and mitkä 'what' nom. pl. commences at the age of three. Other question words and question word forms are produced by a few children.

Wh-interrogative clauses in this study have been divided into ellipses, on-clauses, V-clauses and Adnom-clauses. The ellipses and cm-clauses are acquired on average at the age of 1.9, V-clauses at 1.11 and Adnom-clauses at 2.3.

The question words are used correctly for the most part, with the same references as in adult speech. Semantic misuse of mikä 'what' was detected in 2 % of the pronoun's occurrences; kuka 'who' is misused relatively often, 38 % of the time. The different case forms of the interrogative pronouns and adjectives are on the whole used correctly. One pronoun form susceptible to misuse is nom. sg. mikä 'what', often erroneously produced instead of some other case form. The interrogative adverbs are used according to adult norms almost without exception.

The earliest yes/no-questions in the corpus are -kO-questions, starting on average at age 1.10; the use of -hAn-questions begins at age 2.5. Other yes/no-questions appear at a much later date.

The first -kO-questions are neutral -kO-questions. Focused -kO-questions are acquired somewhat later on. The neutral -kO-questions have been divided into onko 'Is it?'-questions, Simple V+kO-questions, Aux+kO-questions and Neg+kO+V-questions; the various types of questions are acquired in that order.

The interrogative clauses in the corpus have been categorized as information-eliciting questions, directive questions, conversational questions and expressive questions; their acquisition follows ibis order.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1995. , 289 p.
Umeå studies in the humanities, ISSN 0345-0155 ; 126
Keyword [en]
Finnish, child language development, acquisition, interrogative clause, wh-questions, yes/no- questions, disjunctive questions, wh-question word, interrogative particle, discourse function
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-65781OAI: diva2:604541
Available from: 2013-02-11 Created: 2013-02-11 Last updated: 2013-02-11Bibliographically approved

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