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PSYC 341
Richard Koestner

Universal Grammar and Language Acquisition L1 and L2 Acquisition • What do learners acquire? • How do they acquire it? Some basic assumptions • Unconscious linguistic competence of native speakers is mentally represented by means of grammar • Grammar includes syntax, morphology, phonology, semantics, e.g. formal properties of lang. Other aspects of lang (Relating to context) are often considered to be external to grammar but have important effects on grammar • We have to relate souds that we hear to meanings  How? By means of grammar which includes lexicon (phonology, syntax, morphology, and semantics)  context based  conceptual • Language learners, L1 or L2, ust acquire grammar for ‘target’ lang. They are confronted with linguistic, which must somehow be organized and made sense of, allowing learner to understand and produce lang. • Acquisition is nto instantaneous. Learners acquire a series of grammars *not clear how many stages they go through but they DO go through stages Logical problem of acquisition • On basis of linguistic input, learners (L1 or L2) must come up with grammar for lang being acquired • However, input does not give learners enough info to work out all the properties of lang that they eventually come to know unconsciously • Our (unconscious) knowledge is more complex, abstract and subtle than would be expected if lang was acquired from input alone Logical problem of acquisition *grammar is not enough  we need to include LAD (Universal grammar) • Underdetermination: L1 acquirers end up with unconscious knowledge of lang that goes beyond the input they are exposed to o Ambiguity o Ungrammaticality  how do they know some things are ungrammatically, lots of evidence for generalizations (including those that are incorrect) Logical problem: ambiguity • The * by a sentence means its ungrammatical • How do children know which one is ambiguous when both seem like possible answers Logical problem: ungrammaticaliy Principles of UG • Underdetermination problem motivates innate linguistic knowledge (in form of UQ principles) to explain how children come to acquire certain properties of lang not inducible from input • In case of wh-movment, principles of UG (subjacency condition, island constraints) stipulate that certain constituents form “islands” from which wh-phrases cannot escape Parameters of UG • UG assumed to include parameters, which account for cross-linguistic variation Null subject (or pro-drop ) parameter: languages are either pos. prodrop or neg. prodrop, with a range of syntactic consequences, associated
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