Psych156A/ Ling150 Spring 2012 Review Questions: Structure
(1)Terms/concepts to know:
Navajo Code Talker Paradox
(2) What is an example of a movement rule in syntax?
An example of movement rules would be to change the Subject Verb Object order.
This happens in German. Becoming
Another way to generate Subject Verb Object order:
The linguistic system specifies Subject Object Verb as the general pattern, but the
Verb in main clauses moves to the second position and some other phrase (like the
Subject) moves to the first position. An example language like this is German.
Verb – Subject – Object
1. A movement rule in syntax means that the order of the syntax can be
changed. An example of this would be in the typical subject, verb, object
order of grammatical categories in English that can be moved in other
languages. German for example, has a different pattern, which is subject,
object verb. Movement rules allow for the verb to be moved from the end of
an utterance to the beginning and still keep the same meaning. The
movement rule also allows for the subject to be moved to the beginning of
the sentence as well as the object to the end.
(3) Suppose a child encounters a sentence with the word order “Subject Verb
Object”. (For example: “Sarah likes Hoggle.”) Why can’t the child be certain about
how this word order was produced?
Children only see the output of the system (the observable word order of subject
1. The child cannot be certain about how the word order of SVO was produced
because other languages use different ways to generate that same pattern.
For example, German uses SOV, but the verb in main clauses moves to the
second position and some other phrase moves to the first position.
Therefore they are also using the SVO word order, but they generated it in a
(4) What did artificial intelligence researchers discover about the relative difficulty
of playing chess compared to the relative difficulty of translating language? How did
they do this?
Translation from a foreign language to English varies depending on the structure of
the language. In 1997, a program named Deep Blue beat the reigning world
champion in chess. It did this by having enough computational resources to investigate every move option before it actually made the chess move. This shows
that computers’ poor performance on language is not about insufficient
computational power, since there is enough computational power to solve the
chess-playing problem (which some people might consider a very difficult problem).
1. Artificial intelligence researchers studied the relative difficulty of playing
chess compared to the relative difficulty of translating language and found
that computer’s poor performance on language is not about insufficient
computational power, since there is enough computational power to solve
the chess-playing problem.
(5) How does language learning work under Chomsky’s Universal Grammar? Do
children require input from the native language to learn it? Why or why not?
Children are born knowing the parameters of variation. This is a part of the
universal grammar. Input from the native linguistic environment determines what
values these parameters should have.
1. Language learning under Chompsky’s Universal Grammar relies on
combinations of different basic elements or parameters that will yield the
observable languages. A relatively small number of syntax parameters yields
a large number of different languages’ syntactic systems. Children do not
require knowledge, they are born knowing the parameters of variation.
Input from the native linguistic environment determines what values these
parameters should have.
(6) If there are 3 language structure parameters with 2 values each, how many
different languages could be represented?
What about if there are 2 language structure parameters with 3 values each?
1. If there are three language structure parameters with two values each there
will be 8 languages represented. If there are two language structures
parameters and three values in each there will be 27 languages represented.
(7) What kinds of generalizations can be made about the structure of languages
which have “Subject Verb Object” as the basic word order, according to Greenberg?
What about languages which have “Subject Object Verb” as the basic word order?
Preposition noun phrase.
Possessed before possessor.
English, Edo (Nigeria)
1. According to Greenberg, languages that have SVO basic word order are more
similar than they first appear on the surface, especially if we consider their
structural properties. The preposition comes before the noun phrase and the
possessed comes before the possessor. Languages that have SOV basic word
order are also very similar when viewed through structural descriptions.
The possessor is always before the possessed and the noun phrase always
proceeds the postposition. (8) According to Greenberg, do languages with the same structural patterns need to
have a shared history?
No, Greenberg found 45 universals of languages – patterns overwhelminglt followed
by languages with unshared history.
1. According to Greenberg, languages with the same structural patterns do not
need to share a history.
(9) What is the value of parameters for learning language structure? That is, why are
they useful? How can they make acquisition easier?
If all these structural patterns are generated from the same linguistic parameter
(e.g. a “subject” parameter), then children can learn the hard-to-notice patterns (like
the patterns of embedded subject questions) by being exposed to the easy-to-notice
patterns (like the optional use of subjects with verbs). The hard-to-notice patterns
are generated by one setting of the parameter, which children