Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 709-753

First online:

Parameters for Wh-movement types: Evidence from child English

  • Dana McdanielAffiliated withLanguage Sciences Laboratory, University of Southern Maine
  • , Bonnie ChiuAffiliated withDepartment of English, National Taiwan Normal University
  • , Thomas L. MaxfieldAffiliated withDepartments of Linguistics and Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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In this paper we report on a longitudinal study investigating Wh-constructions in children ranging initially from 2;11 to 5;7. We found that, in addition to accepting English-type Wh-movement, some children, for a period of time, also acceptpartial Wh-movement, Wh-copying, andmultiple Wh-movement, constructions that exist in languages like German and Romani, in which a Wh-phrase occurs in a [-Wh] SpecCP. Importantly, none of the children who accept these construction types manifest the That-Trace Effect. To account for this correlation, we propose an analysis whereby grammars allowing the Wh-constructions do not have the [pred] feature of Rizzi (1990) that distinguishes the specifier of relative clauses from other SpecCPs. We suggest that children are born with their parameter set in this way and later, if they are learning a language like English, switch to a grammar that includes the [pred] feature.