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This article investigates the structural properties of interrogative clauses in the Romance languages. Interrogative clauses are typically produced by the speaker in order to elicit information from the addressee; depending on the kind of information requested by the speaker, one can distinguish between two basic types of interrogatives: polar interrogatives and constituent interrogatives. In Romance main polar interrogatives, the interrogative interpretation of the utterance may be triggered only by prosodic means, through a final raising tone. While main polar interrogatives may employ different morphosyntactic strategies, embedded polar interrogatives display a greater degree of uniformity and are invariably introduced by the interrogative complementizer. As for constituent interrogatives, across Romance we find languages employing different strategies: Beside the ordinary fronting of the wh-item in the sentence-initial position, we also find wh-clefting, in which the sentence-initial wh-item is followed by an inflected copula and the complementizer; wh-in situ, with the wh-item appearing in sentence-internal position; wh-doubling, with two wh-items appearing, one in sentence-initial position and the other in sentence-internal position; and multiple wh-fronting, with both wh-items sitting in a left-peripheral position. In nonstandard questions the wh-item is obligatorily fronted, even in the languages that allow for wh-in situ in standard questions.

Article

Children do not speak like adults. This observation is not trivial in a framework in which language acquisition is framed as a process of parameter setting on the basis of universal principles and the child’s input. The present chapter summarizes two main views of language acquisition in this framework, maturation and continuity, with special reference to the acquisition of Romance languages. The debate is difficult to settle on the basis of monolingual data. The comparison of different monolingual populations has the inconvenience that factors like age, cognitive abilities, and abilities related to the performance system come into play in studies that are only interested in the linguistic differences. The multilingual child constitutes an individual with different grammars, but with the same prerequisites if the genetic endowment is concerned, with one performance system and one cognitive system, all facts which can help to settle the debate. Acquisitionists have shown that some routes to adult grammars are shorter and simpler than others. Some of the definitions of complexity, as presented in the literature, will be summarized in relation to the acquisition of grammatical domains in monolingual children. Since complexity can lead to cross-linguistic influence in the multilingual child, the study of this population, again, helps to prove the different definitions of complexity. If it is really the case that grammatical systems are not equally complex, this might also be related to the fact that linguistic variation is best described by parameters which differ in nature—some of which are core parameters (‘deep parameters’), others sub-case parameters—as well as by peripheral variation. Again, parameters which have different settings in the adult language are particularly interesting to study in the multilingual child. Language acquisition is embedded into the child’s linguistic experience, or input. Interestingly, a multilingual child’s input is divided by two, three, or more, in comparison to that of the monolingual child. Arguably, the study of children who acquire more than one language from birth is particularly apt to reveal those grammatical domains which are acquired with ease, even with much less input than the monolingual child receives. Very tentatively, the present article addresses the reduction of intralinguistic variation via child-directed speech and thus opens up a discussion of the relevance of the quality of input in the framework of parameter setting.