A corpus-based study to evaluate the generativist explanation of children’s error patterns in questions





generativism, child language acquisition, Universal Grammar, yes-no question, wh-question, error


This study explores whether the generativist account, specifically the integration theory, could explain children’s percentage of errors in questions in general and whether it also applies to yes-no and non-subject wh-question. The current study adopts a corpus-based method to compare 2-to-3-year-old children’s percentages of errors in questions (and in yes-no and wh-question separately) including auxiliary DO and auxiliary HAVE. The results show that children’s rate of errors in questions including auxiliary DO is higher than that including auxiliary HAVE, which is also applicable to yes-no and non-subject wh-questions. The findings indicate that the generativist theory of child language acquisition could successfully explain children’s patterns of errors in questions. This study also emphasises the impact of the question type which should be carefully considered when constructing and improving the generativist theory of child question formation. The study provides empirical evidence for improving and refining the generativist account of child language acquisition generally and language question acquisition specifically.


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Author Biography

Yiran Du, University of Liverpool

Yiran Du is currently an undergraduate in University of Liverpool and will study in University of Oxford (MPhil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics). His research interests are psycholinguistics, semantics, and language acquisition.
E-mail: hsydu14@liverpool.ac.uk


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How to Cite

Du, Y. (2023). A corpus-based study to evaluate the generativist explanation of children’s error patterns in questions. Journal of Language Teaching, 3(3), 26–38. https://doi.org/10.54475/jlt.2023.007



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