Referentiality and Wh-Movement in Child English: Juvenile D-Linkuency

Rosalind Thornton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


This article compares children's productions of wh-questions with referential Which-N wh-phrases with nonreferential wh-phrases such as who or what. Children's questions with referential wh-phrases present a number of optional “nonadult” structures, which I argue fall into two classes, as predicted by Cinque (1990) and Rizzi (1990). One class involves movement of the wh-phrase through the Spec CP position. The other class of structures involve long movement, in which the wh-phrase bypasses Spec CP. These grammatical options are motivated by the presence or absence of a medial-wh in children's long-distance questions. I propose that the same options are available for children's referential matrix questions. By hypothesis, this necessitates movement of the referential wh-phrase to a position higher than CP, which I take to be Referential Phrase (RefP) (Stowell and Beghelli (1994)). I argue that these unusual questions can be observed in children's grammars because they make overt certain distinctions that remain covert in adult grammar. In particular, children's movement of referential wh-phrases to Spec RefP is “visible,” whereas in the adult grammar, the movement takes place at LF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-175
Number of pages37
JournalLanguage Acquisition
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes


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