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Development of Morphosyntax - University of Alberta jparadis/319_11MAR08.pdf · PDF file...

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319_11MAR08_hndout.pptWhat is the nature of nature?
Are children’s early grammars really grammars?
• What is a grammar? When do children show evidence they have one?
• Productivity • Overregularization
Daddy goed over there I falled/felled down My feets are cold Brigitte doesn’t have many tooths
Are children’s early grammars really grammars?
• Double Marking Will you will make me supper? Do you can fix it? I did played at Tony’s house I was maked it all by myself! It did flewed
• Inflection of novel forms ‘wug’ test: This is a wug. Now, there’s another one.
There are two of them. There are two ___
Casting doubt on whether children’s early grammars are really grammars
• Productivity and the Verb Island Hypothesis (Tomasello) – Limited argument structure frames and inflectional
forms for novel verbs – Limited combinations of individual nouns used with
each verb in spontaneous speech – Early syntax = mainly memorized constructions
• Is there such a thing as ‘grammar’? Radical connectionist perspectives – No rules or abstract symbolic levels - just
activation patterns over units
Mechanisms for Learning Grammar
Theories of Morphosyntactic Acquisition
• Principles and Parameters – Principles = universals; parameters = options
• Lexical and functional categories – Lexical = nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs – Functional = tense, agreement, aspect,
determiners, complementisers (that) • Features within categories e.g., agreement = gender,
number, person – Functional categories = locus of crosslinguistic
• Lexical items (content and grammatical) and the feature specifications for grammatical morphemes
• Children have a lot to learn in acquisition, but they come to the task with domain-specific tools in place, and their learning is guided
Maturation/Continuity • Omission of grammatical morphemes =
absence of functional categories in early grammars?
• Maturation – UG matures/changes over time – Tadpole-frog phenomenon – Functional categories not available before
2;0-2;6 in children’s grammars
Maturation/Continuity • Omission of grammatical morphemes = absence of
functional categories in early grammars?
• Continuity – UG stable over time; functional categories
always ‘available’ – Children’s grammars always a subset of adult
grammars (no tadpole to frog) – Functional categories/features can be
instantiated gradually as a function of input
Tomasello’s Usage-based/ Constructivist Account
• Domain general cognitive abilities and social motivation --> language learning
• Acquisition very gradual; from memorized constructions to abstract schemas
• Acquisition driven by frequency in the input • End-state grammar = construction grammar
– taxonomies of slot & filler templates; many memorized chunks
UB Account of Grammatical Morpheme Acquisition
• Constructions before words; words before “rules”
• Lexically-driven but piecemeal and slow • Input frequency determines sequences
in morpheme acquisition
Key Contrasts between UG and UB/Constructivist Accounts
• UG = domain-specific & nativist; UB= domain- general & non-nativist
• UG = early onset of abstract linguistic knowledge; UB = gradual, late emergence of abstract linguistic knowledge
• UG and UB = different explanations for grammatical morpheme acquisition

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