Correct question formation can be extremely difficult for those in the language learning process. One reason for this is that questions are often denoted by tone rather than syntax. “You going?” can be understood (often) as easily as the grammatically correct “Are you going?” Incorrect syntax often gets the job done as well. “Is you going? can be understood and answered nearly as easily as the correct formation. Question words (especially helping verbs) are often omitted in casual conversation, with intonation serving the purpose of changing a statement into a question.
According to some of current linguistic theory wh- questions involve an abstract relationship between two positions in syntactic structure (Deevy and Leonard, 2004). Much has been written about the theory that normally developing children transform a hidden “deep structure” into the surface structure that we actually hear (e.g. Chomsky, 1957). In actural experience the acquisition of question formation with helping verbs appears to go through three developmental phases: 1) use of tone only, e.g. “I have it?”; 2) addition of helping verb, e.g. “I can have it?” 3) placing the helping verb in the correct position, and including contractions, when necessary, eg. “Can’t I have it?” Future research may demonstrate that the acquisition of questions occurs as a process rather than an instantaneous transformation of a deep structure.