The Acquisition of Auxiliary Syntax: A Longitudinal Elicitation Study. Part 2: The Modals and Auxiliary DO

Rowland, Caroline F.; Theakston, Anna L.
December 2009
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Dec2009, Vol. 52 Issue 6, p1471
Academic Journal
Purpose: The study of auxiliary acquisition is central to work on language development and has attracted theoretical work from both nativist and constructivist approaches. This study is part of a 2-part companion set that represents a unique attempt to trace the development of auxiliary syntax by using a longitudinal elicitation methodology. The aim of the research described in this part is to track the development of modal auxiliaries and auxiliary DO in questions and declaratives to provide a more complete picture of the development of the auxiliary system in English-speaking children. Method: Twelve English-speaking children participated in 2 tasks designed to elicit auxiliaries CAN, WILL, and DOES in declaratives and yes/no questions. They completed each task 6 times in total between the ages of 2;10 (years;months) and 3;6. Results: The children's levels of correct use of the target auxiliaries differed in complex ways according to auxiliary, polarity, and sentence structure, and these relations changed over development. An analysis of the children's errors also revealed complex interactions between these factors. Conclusions: These data cannot be explained in full by existing theories of auxiliary acquisition. Researchers working within both generativist and constructivist frameworks need to develop more detailed theories of acquisition that predict the pattern of acquisition observed.


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