Article published in:The Linguistics Enterprise: From knowledge of language to knowledge in linguistics
Edited by Martin B.H. Everaert, Tom Lentz, Hannah N.M. De Mulder, Øystein Nilsen and Arjen Zondervan
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 150] 2010
► pp. 115–140
The learnability of A-bar chains
This paper discusses the learnability of long wh-questions. Taking longitudinal data from child Dutch an example, I will show that the acquisition of long wh-movement has been thoroughly prepared in previous acquisition steps. Each step defines a local relation that is preserved in the next acquisition step. The long wh-questions appear first with an intermediate pronoun in the speech of the child. My data show that the intermediate pronoun relies on the (previously acquired) relative paradigm which appears in Dutch as an apparently irregular mixture of d-pronouns and w-pronouns. The present view on the learnability of A-bar chains will lead to the following conclusions: (i) Long wh-movement can (hence must) be successive cyclic; (ii) Pied-piping follows from the preservation of licensing contexts only; (iii) Syntactic islands need not to be “learned”. They follow from a non-overlap of local movement domains.
Published online: 13 January 2010