Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1391–1409 | Cite as

Wh-Questions, Universal Statements and Free Choice Inferences in Child Mandarin

  • Haiquan HuangEmail author
  • Peng Zhou
  • Stephen Crain


This study investigated 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking children’s comprehension of wh-questions, universal statements and free choice inferences. Previous research has found that Mandarin-speaking children assign a universal interpretation to sentences with a wh-word (e.g., shei ‘who’) followed by the adverbial quantifier dou ‘all’ (Zhou in Appl Psycholinguist 36:411–435, 2013). Children also compute free choice inferences in sentences that contain a modal verb in addition to a wh-word and dou (Zhou, in: Nakayama, Su, Huang (eds.) Studies in Chinese and Japanese language acquisition: in honour of Stephen Crain. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, pp 223–235, 2017). The present study used a Question-Statement Task to assess children’s interpretation of sentences containing shei + dou, both with and without the modal verb beiyunxu ‘was allowed to’, as well as the contrast between sentences with shei + dou, which are statements for adults, versus ones with dou + shei, which are wh-questions for adults. The 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking child participants exhibited adult-like linguistic knowledge of the semantics and pragmatics of wh-words, the adverbial quantifier dou, and the deontic modal verb beiyunxu.


Wh-questions Free choice inferences Adverbial quantifier dou Child Mandarin Language acquisition 



This research was supported in part by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorder (CE110001021). In addition, the research was supported by an International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship to Haiquan Huang (No. 2014016). Peng Zhou and Stephen Crain are members of the the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorder, Macquarie University. For helpful feedback and discussion, we thank Jim Huang, Gennaro Chierchia, Lyn Tieu, Yimei Xiang and Cory Bill. Finally, we express our sincere thanks to Juan Cai for her assistance in conducting the experiments at the kindergarten affiliated with the Hubei University of Technology.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study has also received the Ethics Approval from Faculty of Human Science-Human Research Ethics Sub-Committee, Macquarie University, Australia and the ethics reference number is 5201500028.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders and Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Child Cognition LabTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders and Department of LinguisticsMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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