Language Acquisition and the Theory of Parameters

  • Nina M. Hyams

Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 3)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Nina M. Hyams
    Pages 26-62
  3. Nina M. Hyams
    Pages 63-109
  4. Nina M. Hyams
    Pages 110-127
  5. Nina M. Hyams
    Pages 148-172
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 173-186

About this book

Introduction

This book is perhaps the most stunning available demonstration of the explanatory power of the parametric approach to linguistic theory. It is akin, not to a deductive proof, but to the discovery of a footprint in a far-off place which leaves an archeologist elated. The book is full of intricate reasoning, but the stunning aspect is that the reasoning moves between not only complex syntax and diverse languages, but it makes predictions about what two-year-old children will assume about the jumble of linguistic input that confronts them. Those predictions, Hyams shows, are supported by a discriminating analysis of acquisition data in English and Italian. Let us examine the linguistic context for a moment before we discuss her theory. The ultimate issue in linguistic theory is the explanation of how a child can acquire any human language. To capture this fact we must posit an innate mechanism which meets two opposite constraints: it must be broad enough to account for the diversity of human language, and narrow enough so that the child does not make irrelevant hypotheses about his own language, particularly ones from which there is no recovery. That is, a child must not posit a grammar which permits all of the sentences of a language as well as other sentences which are not in the language. In a word, the child must not create a language in which one cannot make adult discriminations between grammatical and ungrammatical.

Keywords

English German language acquisition

Authors and affiliations

  • Nina M. Hyams
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of LinguisticsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-4638-5
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1986
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-90-277-2219-5
  • Online ISBN 978-94-009-4638-5
  • Series Print ISSN 1873-0043
  • About this book