Investigations in Universal Grammar

A Guide to Experiments on the Acquisition of Syntax and Semantics
Overview

This introductory guide to language acquisition research is presented within the framework of Universal Grammar, a theory of the human faculty for language. The authors focus on two experimental techniques for assessing children's linguistic competence: the Elicited Production task, a production task, and the Truth Value Judgment task, a comprehension task. Their methodologies are designed to overcome the numerous obstacles to empirical investigation of children's language competence. They produce research results that are more reproducible and less likely to be dismissed as an artifact of improper experimental procedure.

In the first section of the book, the authors examine the fundamental assumptions that guide research in this area; they present both a theory of linguistic competence and a model of language processing. In the following two sections, they discuss in detail their two experimental techniques.

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. 1. Introduction
  3. 2. Constraints and Universal Grammar
  4. 3. The Poverty of the Stimulus
  5. 4. Models of Language Development
  6. 5. Continuity versus Input Matching
  7. 6. The Competing Factors Model
  8. 7. Competing Tasks: Reaction Time Studies
  9. 8. Competing Tasks: The Act-Out Task
  10. 9. Competing Tasks: Imitation
  11. 10. Judgment Tasks and Competing Factors
  12. 11. Context and Competing Factors
  13. 12. Language Processing
  14. 13. Extralinguistic Knowledge
  15. 14. When Principles and Preferences Collide
  16. 15. Performance Errors
  17. 16. Methodological Preliminaries
  18. 17. Elicited Production
  19. 18. Eliciting Relative Clauses
  20. 19. Asking Questions: The Ask/Tell Problem
  21. 20. Structure-Dependence
  22. 21. Contraction
  23. 22. Long-Distance Questions and the Medial-Wh
  24. 23. Why Children Make Good Subjects
  25. 24. Summary of Designs
  26. 25. Truth Value Judgments
  27. 26. Backward Anaphora
  28. 27. Fundamentals of Design: Principle C
  29. 28. What's Wrong with This Picture?
  30. 29. Strong Crossover
  31. 30. Strongest Crossover
  32. 31. Principle B
  33. 32. Following Up on Principle B
  34. 33. Sets and Circumstances
  35. 34. Discourse Binding
  36. 35. Universal Quantification
  37. 36. Donkey Sentences
  38. 37. A Potential Drawback of the Task
  39. 38. Resolving the Dilemma: Control Sentences
  40. 39. Resolving the Dilemma: Varying the Context
  41. 40. Conclusion
  42. Notes
  43. References
  44. Index