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Avoiding overgeneralization errors across languages: The Crosslinguistic Acquisition of Sentence Structure (CLASS) Project

Freitag, 23. März 2018, 10:15 Uhr bis 11:45 Uhr

How children acquire their native language remains one of the key unsolved problems in cognitive science. This work addresses a question that lies at the heart of this problem: How do children acquire the abstract generalizations that allow them to produce novel sentences, while avoiding the ungrammatical utterances that result from across-the-board application of these generalizations (e.g., *The clown laughed the man)? Previous theories (the entrenchment, preemption and verb semantics hypotheses) have enjoyed some success for English, but remain largely untested for other languages. In this talk, I present an outline of — and some preliminary findings from — a project designed to answer this question looking across five languages: English, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese and K’iche’ Mayan. In addition to the overarching theoretical question set out above, the research addresses four key questions: (1) What do learners bring to the task in terms of cognitive-semantic universals?; (2) How do children form linguistic generalizations in the first place?; (3) Why are languages the way they are; would other types of systems be difficult or impossible to learn?; (4) What is the nature of development?. I will present elicitation, grammaticality judgment and modelling studies (at ages 3-4, 5-6, 9-10 and 18+ years) designed to answer these questions.

MitBen Ambridge
Ort Freiestrasse 36, 8032 Zürich
Raum: FRE D 14
VeranstalterInstitut für Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
KontaktMathias Jenny (Mail)