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Lecture 4

LINA02H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Language Acquisition, Data Set, Universal Grammar

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Eri Takahashi

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LINA02: Applications of Linguistics Thursday January 28, 2016
Lecture 4: Poverty of the Stimulus; Critical Period
The Acquisition of Word Meaning
Whole object principle (Gavagai case)
oAssume new words refer to a whole object, not its parts
Mutual exclusivity principle
oEx. This is blik.
oA thing has one name
Uniform Stages of Irregular Forms (English):
Phase 1: rats, dogs, mice, geese
oNot clear if they realize the forms are related (single plural)
Phase 2: rats, dogs, *mouses, *gooses, *mices, *geeses
oThey seem to have acquired the plural rule and they overgeneralize
oSuch forms sound like mistakes to adults, although it is not really a mistake because
they are correctly applying the rule (they are unaware of exceptions)
Phase 3: rats, dogs, mice, geese
oCorrect irregulars; system is adult-like by 5 years (mostly)
Past Tense
Phase 2: *broked
Uniform Stages of Negative Formation
Negative Sentences:
1. No drink milk; no baby sleep
a. Place negative before statement
2. Baby no sleep; me no drink milk
a. No. Aux
3. Baby won’t sleep; but; me not hungry
a. no form of ‘to be’
4. Im not hungry
Uniform Stages of Question Formation
1. Mommy cup? More ride?
a. Regular phrases with rising intonation
2. Are you sad? Can I go?
Why you are sad? When I can go?
a. Acquired ‘move-aux’
b. Cannot move aux with wh- questions
3. Why are you sad? When can I go?
By Their Third Birthdays, kids start using:
Endings on verbs
oEx. Progressing –ing will be first: things like 3rd person singular will be much later (eats,

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Prepositions ex. In, on
Regular plural with its allophones (cats, dogs)
oThey have learned the plural ‘s’, but not the 3rd person singular ‘s’
oRelate to Genie! Which ‘s’ did she acquire?
Before the fourth Birthday, kids are using:
Most function words
Endings on verbs and nouns
They are:
Still fine-tuning phonology
Still continuing to learn new words
This systematic sequence of stages suggests language learning can’t be primarily a function of
imitation or teaching.
There must be some innately determined ‘programs’ for language acquisition.
Acquisition of Rules: The Model
A child who is exposed to data of a particular language acquires a mental grammar of the language
X + DataLG = MGLG
X = the child’s contribution to the acquisition of MGLG
The task: to specify each element in the formula: X, Data, and MG
Poverty of the Stimulus (POS)
Input alone cannot account for the growth of the development of the system. What is acquired is not
present in the input: ex.
Word boundaries
Abstract hierarchical structure
(and rules operating on that structure)
oEx. Move aux, move wh-
POS Argument for Universal Grammar
Adults (universally) know Property X
Children know Property X from the beginning and never consider any other plausible
Evidence for Property X is underdetermined by the input language that child is exposed to
Therefore, Property X must be innate
POS argument for
the existence of a
principle of UG:
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