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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The fundamental questions to be asked about syntax acquisition concern whether the child’s knowledge is abstract and principled in nature, or piecemeal and highly input- and frequency-dependent. Generative linguists following Chomsky argue that universal grammar dictates development from the start, and propose that grammar development is limited by twin considerations of modularity and continuity. A brief review is provided of the arguments and empirical evidence about these matters at various key points in the course of development: the first two-word sentences, the acquisition of inflectional morphology, movement rules, and complex sentences. The role of developing syntax in cognitive development is highlighted to uncover what advantages grammar might convey. Models of learning are introduced, comparing the concepts that learning is statistical versus algebraic, and connectionist models to the ideas of natural selection among multiple grammars.

Keywords: universal grammar, usage-based models, continuity, modularity, movement rules, principles and parameters, statistical learning, algebraic learning, recursion

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