Wh-questions, universal statements and free choice inferences in child Mandarin

Haiquan Huang*, Peng Zhou, Stephen Crain

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1391–1409
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
    Issue number6
    Early online date16 Nov 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • Wh-questions
    • free choice inferences
    • adverbial quantifier dou
    • child Mandarin
    • language acquisition


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