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Rethinking Verb Second$
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Rebecca Woods and Sam Wolfe

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198844303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198844303.001.0001

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Rethinking auxiliary doubling in adult and child language

Rethinking auxiliary doubling in adult and child language

How verb-movement turns propositions into illocutionary acts

(p.835) 36 Rethinking auxiliary doubling in adult and child language
Rethinking Verb Second

Rebecca Woods

Tom Roeper

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines a well-known ‘error’ in the production of English-acquiring children, namely auxiliary-doubling in questions. A new account for these structures is proposed, whereby children analyse auxiliaries as carrying multiple features, most prominently [tense] and [assertion], and may ‘unbundle’ these features onto two separately expressed auxiliaries. This allows children to ask complex non-neutral questions for which they lack adult grammatical strategies such as cleft constructions. This proposal feeds into broader questions about how illocutionary acts are constructed in English and related languages such as German; it is claimed that the insertion, via Merge or Move, of a tensed element in C is key to linking a proposition directly to a discourse context. Crucially, it is shown that the acquisition path is guided by the syntax-discourse interface and that careful consideration of acquisition data can shed light on fundamental theoretical issues.

Keywords:   acquisition, auxiliary-doubling, question, illocutionary act, tense, assertion

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