Children’s Grammatical Conservatism

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A growing number of studies suggest that children are &#8220;grammatically conservative&#8221;: At least in their spontaneous speech, children do not begin using a new syntactic structure productively until they have both determined that the structure is permitted in the adult language, and identified the adults&#8217; grammatical basis for it. This study provides two new pieces of evidence for children&#8217;s Grammatical Conservatism (GC): one from the acquisition of the <i>Go</i>-Verb construction in American English, and the other from children&#8217;s fragmentary answers to prepositional <i>wh</i>-questions in English and Spanish. The findings suggest that children&#8217;s GC is operative even for inflection, and that there is at least one case in which GC overrides the general tendency of young children to omit function words. Keywords: grammatical conservatism; go-verb construction; prepositional questions; preposition stranding; fragmentary answers; ellipsis; sluicing; acquisition of English; acquisition of Spanish


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