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Children's knowledge of wh-quantification in Mandarin Chinese

  • PENG ZHOU (a1)

Abstract

Wh-words in Mandarin Chinese exhibit quantificational variability. Aside from a typical interrogative reading, wh-words can also have an existential indefinite reading or a universal reading. Which reading it is depends on the linguistic environments in which they occur. The present study investigates Mandarin-speaking children's sensitivity to the linguistic environments for the noninterrogative use of wh-words: the existential reading and the universal reading. The results show that young children exhibited adultlike sensitivity to the licensing environments for the noninterrogative use of wh-words. Given the difficulty that children may have in using the input data to learn the interpretation of wh-words and the early emergence of this knowledge, we propose that the licensing mechanism for the noninterrogative use of wh-words is innate.

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Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Peng Zhou, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. E-mail: peng.zhou@mq.edu.au

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