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Predicting the development of interrogative forms and functions in early years: a corpus-based study of Mandarin-speaking young children*



This study examined the development of and possible predictors of interrogative forms and functions in early childhood Mandarin. All the interrogatives drawn from the Early Child Mandarin Corpus (168 children 2;6, 3;6, 4;6, and 5;6) were analyzed. The main results indicated that (i) there were significant age effects in interrogative forms and functions, with the periods between the ages of 3;6 and 4;6 and between the ages of 2;6 and 3;6 being critical in the early acquisition of interrogative forms and functions, respectively; (ii) the form–function preference was verified, with wh-questions being primarily used to seek information (RfI), and intonation/echo and rhetorical questions being used to request action (RfA); (iii) more than half (59·5%) of the Mandarin interrogatives were used for RfI, whereas only 38·9% of them were used for RfA; and (iv) age, TV viewing time, and parent–child conversation time were the significant predictors of interrogative development.


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Address for correspondence: Dr Hui Li, Men Wah Complex Room 509, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. tel: (852) 39175248; fax: (852) 2858-5649;


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This paper is based on a project (RGC Ref No. 747109) funded to the first author by the Research Grants Council of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Thanks are given to all the participating children and their parents, Professor A. H. Liu, Dr Eva Chen, and the student research assistants.



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Predicting the development of interrogative forms and functions in early years: a corpus-based study of Mandarin-speaking young children*



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