CLS Meeting Series - Charles Yang (UPenn)
Apr 17, 2015
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
|Where||127 Moore Building|
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How Abstract is Child Language?
Is early child language based on abstract categories and rules or lexically specific linguistic expressions that are limited in combinatorial scope? We suggest two ways to broaden the methodological and empirical scope of acquisition studies. First, the statistical assessment of child language requires a theoretically motivated “null hypothesis” rather than the more typically used “chance level” behavior. Once that is done, the quantitative patterns of child syntax which have been used to support the usage based view in fact provide strong evidence for abstract grammars. Second, we suggest that the comparative study of closely related dialects provide unique opportunities to resolve contemporary theoretical debates. Using data from the acquisition of African American English and Mainstream American English, we show that children acquire tense not in a piecemeal fashion but as an abstract and overarching property of the language/dialect.