The acquisition of wh-questions in Russian


  • Nina Rojina Faculté des lettres, Université de Genève, Switzerland



Russian language, wh-questions, language acquisition, Continuity Hypothesis, child language


In this paper, I study the acquisition of wh-questions in Russian by one Russian-speaking child from an early stage of syntactic development. For my analysis, I follow Plunkett (1992:73) in adopting a weak version of the Continuity Hypothesis where all the principles of UG are available from the outset of the acquisition process, but the structure of the functional template must be built up before parameter setting can begin. I adopt this hypothesis due to its compatibility with my finding that in the acquisition of Russian wh-questions, the functional projection CP appears at a later stage of syntactic development than other functional projections. Following Plunkett, I assume that in the beginning, the landing site for the wh-word is [Spec,TP] and later, for the valuation of other features (such as finiteness), the child is forced to acquire another functional projection (CP) in order to create a landing site for the wh-word.

The analysis shows that the first wh-questions acquired by the child are wh-complement questions. The child starts to produce subject wh-questions when the CP projection is acquired, and by the age of 2;4.14, the child’s structure of wh-questions is close to that of adult speech.