The Non-Biological Evolution of Grammar: Wh-Question Formation in Germanic

Jacqueline van Kampen

Abstract


The wh-marking of questions in child English is as early as the appearance of the wh-questions themselves. The wh-marking of questions in child Dutch (and the other Germanic languages) is delayed until the acquisition of articles and free anaphoric pronouns. An acquisition procedure is proposed that succeeds to set first a typological difference, V2 for Dutch and SVfinO for English. The different setting of the typological parameters determines the wh-development in subsequent acquisition steps. The learnability approach relativizes Chomsky’s poverty of the stimulus, but affirms his position that language is ‘perfect’ in the sense of being learnable as a cultural construct without the assumption of innate grammar-specific a prioris.

Keywords


acquisition of wh-questions; child Dutch/English; cultural evolution; learnability; lexicalism

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