Grs LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory Week Transfer and the “initial state” for L2A. And other things

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GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory

  • Week 7. Transfer and the “initial state” for L2A. And other things.

“UG in L2A” so far

  • UG principles

    • (Subjacency, Binding Theory)
  • UG parameters of variation

    • (Subjacency bounding nodes, Binding domains, null subject, VT)
  • Justified in large part on the basis of L1.

    • the complexity of language
    • the paucity of useful data
    • the uniform success and speed of L1’ers acquiring language.

“UG in L2A” so far

  • To what extent is UG still involved in L2A?

  • Speaker’s “interlanguage” shows a lot of systematicity, complexity which also seems to be more than the linguistic input could motivate.

  • The question then: Is this systematicity “left over” (transferred) from the existing L1, where we know the systematicity exists already? Or is L2A also building up a new system like L1A?

  • We’ve seen that universal principles which operated in L1 seem to still operate in L2 (e.g., ECP and Japanese case markers).

Initial state: 3 options

  • The L1 (parameter settings)

    • Schwartz & Sprouse (1996) “Full Transfer/Full Access”
  • Parts of the L1 (certain parameter settings)

    • Eubank (1993/4) “Valueless Features Hypothesis”
    • Vainikka & Young-Scholten (1994) “Minimal trees”
  • Clean slate (UG defaults)

    • Epstein et. al (1996)
    • Platzack (1996) “Initial Hypothesis of Syntax”

Vainikka & Young-Scholten

  • V&YS propose that phrase structure is built up from just a VP all the way up to a full clause.

  • Similar to Radford’s L1 proposal except that there is an order of acquisition even past the VP (i.e., IP before CP). Also similar to Rizzi’s L1 “truncation” proposal. And of course, basically the same as Vainikka’s L1 tree building proposal.

  • V&YS propose that both L1A and L2A involve this sort of “tree building.”

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • An adult clause, where kids end up.

  • The subject pronoun is in nominative case (I, he, they), a case form reserved for SpecAgrP in finite clauses (cf. me, him, them or my, his, …).

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • Very early on, kids are observed to use non-nominative subjects almost all the time (90%) like:

  • My make a house

    • Nina (2;0)
  • The fact that the subject is non-nominative can be taken as an indication that it isn’t in SpecAgrP.

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • Vainikka’s proposal was that children who do this are in a VP stage, where their entire syntactic representation of a sentence consists of a verb phrase.

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • I color me

    • Nina (2;1)
  • The nominative subject tells us that the kid has at least AgrP in their structure.

  • Know what my making?

    • Nina (2;4)
  • Normally wh-movement implies a CP (wh-words are supposed to move into SpecCP).

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • Know what my making?

    • Nina (2;4)
  • However, if there is no CP, Vainikka hypothesizes that the wh-word goes to the highest specifier it can go to—SpecAgrP. Which means that the subject can’t be there, and hence can’t be nominative.

Vainikka (1993/4), L1A

  • Finally, kids reach a stage where the whole tree is there and they use all nominative subjects, even in wh-questions.

Vainikka (1993/4)

  • So, to summarize the L1A proposal: Acquisition goes in (syntactically identifiable stages). Those stages correspond to ever-greater articulation of the tree.

    • VP stage:
      • No nominative subjects, no wh-questions.
    • AgrP stage:
      • Nominative subjects except in wh-questions.
    • CP stage:
      • Nominative subjects and wh-questions.

Vainikka & Young-Scholten’s primary claims about L2A

  • Vainikka & Young-Scholten take this idea and propose that it also characterizes L2A… That is…

  • L2A takes place in stages, grammars which successively replace each other (perhaps after a period of competition).

  • The stages correspond to the “height” of the clausal structure.

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