Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association
Editor-in-Chief: Stefanowitsch, Anatol / Schoenefeld, Doris
1 Issue per year
‘Can I ask you something?’: The influence of functional factors on the L1-acquisition of yes-no questions in English
Usage-based, constructivist approaches to first language acquisition assume that children’s linguistic abilities emerge in a piecemeal fashion through interaction with mature language users (Tomasello 2003). In spite of the fact that both formal and functional characteristics of the linguistic constructions involved are thought to be of importance in this process, most previous studies have focused exclusively on form.
The current study aims at exploring the contribution of functional factors in the learning of a subset of yes-no questions: providing an in-depth analysis of the emergence of Can -person-process?-constructions in a high-density Childescorpus of a boy learning English (Lieven et al. 2009), it is shown that functional factors need to be considered in order to be able to account for the developmental path. It is suggested that we need to re-evaluate the relationship between (formal as well as functional) frequency, salience, and entrenchment and the ways in which these aspects interact during the language learning process. This has important implications for future research on language development as well as for claims about the mental organization of linguistic knowledge within CxG and Cognitive Linguistics more generally.