Children's Acquisition of Negative Concord and Negative Polarity Items in English Restricted; Files Only

Bintinger, Anna (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8p58pf13g?locale=en
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Abstract

English-speaking children who do not speak dialects with negative concord constructions, in which two negative words in a sentence are interpreted as one force of negation, have been reported to produce these constructions between the ages of 2 and 6. Many of these sentences could also be constructed using negative polarity items, words such as any that are not negative, but require a negative environment to be grammatical. This paper examines the possibility that children who do not have a negative concord grammar are mistaking negative polarity items and negative words to be interchangeable. All corpora in the Childes corpus with children between the ages of 2 and 6 speaking either North American or British English were searched for constructions using negative words and negative polarity items to test this theory. They were first examined for the extent that children made this mistake within sentential negation and secondly to examine other contexts in which they may have made this mistake. Children made this mistake within sentential negation far less frequently than they would be expected to if they were producing a negative concord grammar, suggesting that they are making a different mistake, like the one proposed in this paper. Children also make this mistake in fragment answers, in which the negative polarity item or negative word stands alone, but did not make this mistake in if-clauses or questions. This suggests the possibility that children are not hypothesizing a negative concord grammar but may be judging negative polarity items and negative words to be interchangeable in some contexts, but not in others. 

Table of Contents

Introduction.................................................................................................................................................1

Background....................................................... ..........................................................................................4

Negative Concord..........................................................................................................................5

NPIs and Negative Concord in English........................................................................................6

Licensing Conditions of NPIs and N-Words...............................................................................7

Previous Studies on Acquisition of Negation in English........................................................................9

Blanchette’s Studies on Negative Concord.............................................................................10

Sentential Negation in Early Child English...............................................................................13

Two Negations for the Price of One..........................................................................................13

The Emergence of Barriers to Wh-Movement, Negative Concord and Quantification.....14

Sociolinguistic Variation in Brown’s Sarah Corpus.................................................................15

Research Questions..................................................................................................................................15

Part One.....................................................................................................................................................18

Methods.......................................................................................................................................18

Results..........................................................................................................................................20

Analysis.........................................................................................................................................23

Part Two.....................................................................................................................................................25

Methods.......................................................................................................................................27

Results..........................................................................................................................................28 Conclusion.................................................................................................................................................29 

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