Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant: First Language Acquisition of English Main and Embedded Questions

  • Valian, Virginia (PI)
  • Pozzan, Lucia L. (CoPI)

Project Details


This dissertation project examines how children learning English as their first language acquire the grammar of English questions. The ultimate goal of this study is to contribute to an understanding of why some types of errors, but not others, occur in language acquisition, and how these errors relate to input frequency and the properties of individual words. The research will include both cases of under-generalization of subject-auxiliary inversion (failure to invert the subject and the auxiliary in direct questions, e.g., 'Why you are laughing?') and also cases of over-generalization (over-application of subject-auxiliary inversion in indirect questions, e.g., 'I don't know what time is it.') Since such forms are entirely absent from the speech of adult native speakers, these are linguistic patterns created by the language learning mechanism. The outcomes of the proposed studies will shed light on the acquisition of interrogative structures and on the nature of generalization mechanisms in language acquisition.

Effective start/end date1/09/1031/08/12


  • National Science Foundation: $11,570.00


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