Jonathan Ginzburg

How Questions Emerge

In this talk I will address two related issues. The first is how children begin to understand questions.
I will present data from corpora in English and experiments in German about the order of emergence of questions. I will suggest that the data goes against some obvious semantic complexity notions of questions and will propose an explanation based on how questions are grounded in interaction. I will also consider how questions structure conversations (or `language games’ [Wittgenstein] or `speech genres’ [Bakhtin]). I will sketch a general structure for these, which argues for  different complexities of such games. It is within a certain class of such games that the understanding of questions emerges.