Speaker: Petra Schulz (Goethe University)
Title: Exhaustivity in wh-questions in typical and impaired acquisition
Abstract: In this talk I discuss how the exhaustivity property of single wh-questions like Who is sitting? and in multiple wh-questions like Who is sitting where? and Who is giving what to whom? develops in children with typical development (TD) and with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Starting from the observation that answers to multiple wh-questions are obligatorily exhaustive, I argue for a unified semantic approach where exhaustivity is rooted in the question meaning, and exhaustivity in single and multiple wh-questions is treated within the same framework (cf. Roeper/Schulz 2011).
Drawing on data from 5-year-old TD children across 19 languages coming out of two EU projects (COST Action A33, COST Action IS0804) and from German-speaking TD children of different ages I will show that acquisition of exhaustive wh-questions is cross-linguistically robust. Cross-linguistic robustness is also mirrored in the types of typical non-target answers, indicating a universal acquisition pattern. Based on our recent studies involving SLI children, it will be demonstrated that exhaustivity in single and especially in multiple wh-questions is problematic for these children. Attributing exhaustivity to universally exhausting the question domain, I will argue that (at least some) children with SLI do not possess this property. The difficulties with exhaustivity found in children with SLI may be related to general problems with quantification and may indicate a semantic deficit, supporting the assumption that a subtype of semantic SLI exists (cf. Schulz, 2010).