Misha Becker and Susannah Kirby
This chapter provides an overview of the literature on children’s acquisition of constructions involving A(rgument)-movement: passive, unaccusative verbs, raising-to-subject, and raising-to-object. Considering A-movement within a derivational theoretical framework (GB/Minimalism), we provide some historical and theoretical context for treating these constructions under the same operation. In all cases, the surface position of an NP is incongruous with its syntactic configuration for receiving its thematic role. For each construction we discuss empirical evidence concerning children’s knowledge of the construction (including, where available, cross-linguistic data), and the major theoretical debates that have arisen around them, notably Maturation. We suggest that variability in experimental outcomes, both within and across constructions, can be linked to methodological choices and not likely to lack of linguistic knowledge.
The concepts of possession and ownership are among the first to be expressed by children when they start acquiring language. This chapter starts with an overview of the properties of possession cross-linguistically followed by a review of the literature on the acquisition of possession in five languages—English, German, Greek, Hebrew, and Japanese. The studies on the acquisition of possession are discussed in relation to learnability issues and avenues are identified for future research on the acquisition of possession.
In this chapter the acquisition of pronouns and reflexives is discussed. It reviews several accounts of the so-called Delay of Principle B Effect, the absence of this effect in some languages, and the structural factors that influence its appearance in child language. It also discusses children’s alledged target-like performance on reflexives in several languages with different type of reflexives. The chapter concludes that provided a balanced experimental design is used, the experimental results point at early mastery of Principle A and B, and that children’s difficulties with the interpretation of pronouns and reflexives are to be found at the interfaces between syntax and discourse or semantics, and may be due to limited (syntactic) processing resources.
Sonja Eisenbeiss, Bhuvana Narasimhan, and Maria Voeikova
Case is one of the most heterogeneous nominal morphological categories: the number of case forms in morphological paradigms, the syntactic and semantic functions of case, and the set of declension classes differ even in typologically similar languages. Hence, the acquisition of case presents the child with a major learning challenge. This article presents empirical studies and theoretical perspectives on case acquisition in children, focusing on generative, natural morphology, cognitive-functional, and usage-based approaches. The empirical focus is on the acquisition of accusative, ergative, and split case systems. The article also explores productivity in children's early case forms, the role of nature or nurture in the acquisition of case, form-meaning mappings in the acquisition of case, and the time course of case development.
This chapter looks at the acquisition of comparatives from formal, theoretical, and cross-linguistic perspectives. It begins by reviewing children’s aberrations from adults in the form of the comparative constructions that they produce through at least age 6, and then turns to theoretical accounts of comparatives and degree constructions across a range of languages to pinpoint specific areas in the construction of a comparative in which children’s representations and interpretations may go astray, or converge with adults. A range of studies and methodologies used over the years are reviewed in order to present a clear picture of what we currently know about children’s developing understanding of comparison and comparatives, and to clear a path for future research in this area.
Jill de Villiers and Tom Roeper
The development of complementation engages high-level parametric variation, a variety of separate modules, and very specific lexical variation across the possible grammars in UG. In particular, finiteness, argument structure, control, empty categories, and recursion all present separate challenges and create an intricate grammatical acquisition path for any child. The essential question is: how does the CP node expand from small clauses to infinitives to tensed clauses? The next question is: how does the grammar interface with cognition, as complements express propositional attitudes, and false beliefs? We survey empirical research that documents descriptive work on the growth of complementation and theoretical research addressed to linking rules and movement rules. We survey both what is known and new questions that need to be investigated.
Eve V. Clark
Children acquire some derived word forms early, initially as unanalyzed wholes. But from about age 2 onwards, they start to make use of attested derived word-form patterns when they construct new words to convey specific meanings. These spontaneous coinages offer one source of evidence for children’s identification of affixes and their meanings. Two further sources are elicited interpretations of novel words never heard before, and elicited coinages to express novel meanings. All three have been studied extensively for a number of languages. Children’s acquisition of derived word-forms depends on their ability to identify core stems and affixes, on the semantic transparency of the affixes (known meanings), and on productivity (forms well attested in adult speech). Order of acquisition for specific derivational meanings depends largely on adult productivity, and this varies with language typology.
The chapter illustrates variation associated with ergative alignment and properties of ergative languages that might impact on acquisition of the system. Language input, the social context and developmental patterns are also discussed, as are criteria for determining when a system has been acquired. Examples provided represent different language families and geographic areas. Also included are more detailed examples: for Kaluli, which has a split ergative system, dependent on word order and pragmatic factors; for Arctic Quebec Inuktitut which employs detransitivisation processes to change the role of the arguments of bivalent verbs; and for Warlpiri which has frequent ellipsis of core arguments, so reducing the frequency of ergative marking in the input. The data illustrate that split morphological systems and variable use of ergative marking do not seem to be problematic overall. By the age of 2.5 or 3 years, children show knowledge of the system.
Stanka A. Fitneva
How do children learn the evidential system of their language? The primary goal of this chapter is to summarize existing research on this topic. Its secondary goal is to position this research within a broader framework of investigating language development focusing on the learner, the target language, and the environment as key explanatory factors. The chapter reviews both observational and experimental studies, the latter exploring the production and comprehension of evidentials as well as their use in assessing the reliability of information. This research provides insight primarily into the contributions of cognitive processes to children’s learning of evidentials. The data, however, also hint at how the environment, in particular socialization processes, could help children break the code of evidentials, suggesting that this may be the next frontier of research in the area.
Keiko Murasugi and Koji Sugisaki
This article investigates a number of issues concerning parameter setting and developmental factors in language acquisition. It is mainly limited to studies on the acquisition of syntax that provide intriguing empirical findings. The studies of Japanese acquisition confirm the early emergence of Universal Grammar principles, but the syntactic phenomena that are taken up to demonstrate this point are quite different from those in the acquisition of English, which makes these studies quite intriguing from the viewpoint of acquisition theory. The article also indicates that the time course of child language acquisition is a potentially rich source of evidence concerning the parameters of variation permitted by human language. It is hoped that the connection between acquisitional investigations and theoretical studies of the Japanese language will be further tightened in the future.
Bill Forshaw, Lucinda Davidson, Barbara Kelly, Rachel Nordlinger, Gillian Wigglesworth, and Joe Blythe
This chapter reports on initial findings of an ongoing large-scale research project into the acquisition of Murrinhpatha, a polysynthetic language of the Daly River region of the Northern Territory of Australia with complex morphology. The complex verbal structures in Murrinhpatha, which can contain a large number of morphemes and bipartite stem morphology discontinuously distributed throughout the verbal template, raise a multitude of questions for acquisition. In this chapter we focus particularly on the acquisition of the complex predicate system in the verb, and the acquisition of subject-marking categories and tense/aspect/mood. Our findings are based on the language development of five Murrinhpatha acquiring children aged from 2;7–4;11 years.
Ewan Dunbar and William Idsardi
This chapter gives a unified overview of the research on how phonological inventories are acquired in a first language. It surveys the main highlights of the literature from both a perception and a production standpoint, from both linguistics and psychology, with an eye to how we might start to square the various disagreeing sets of facts.
Sabine Stoll, Balthasar Bickel, and Jekaterina Mažara
In first language acquisition research so far little is known about the affordances involved in children's acquisition of morphologies of different complexities. This chapter discusses the acquisition of Chintang verbal morphology. Chintang is a Sino-Tibetan (Kiranti) polysynthetic language spoken in a small village in Eastern Nepal by approximately 6,000 speakers. The most complex part of Chintang morphology is verbal inflection. A large number of affixes, verb compounding, and freedom in prefix ordering results in over 1,800 verb forms of single stem verbs and more than 4,000 forms if a secondary stem is involved. In this chapter we assess the challenges of learning such a complex system, and we describe in detail what this acquisition process looks like. For this we analyze a large longitudinal acquisition corpus of Chintang.
The last 40 years of research on the acquisition of questions within the generative framework is reviewed, starting with Brown’s (1968) predictions for the form of wh-questions in English. Evidence from children’s answers to questions is taken to support children have access to the syntactic computation required for question formation. This leads to an examination of children’s non-adult productions; questions with no I to C movement, why-questions, whose-questions as well as long-distance questions with wh-copying and questions with partial movement. We also review evidence from English and other languages that demonstrates children adhere to linguistic constraints on wh-movement.
The present chapter discusses age effects in first language (L1) attrition. In particular, focus is placed on the age-related decline in attrition susceptibility, the extent to which age effects be counterbalanced by other factors, and the underlying mechanisms of age effects. In view of extant evidence, it is suggested that the change in heightened attrition susceptibility occurs at around 12 years of age (or puberty) (though this by no means implies that attrition does not occur past puberty). Relatedly, it is suggests that socio-psychological and cognitive factors have greater compensatory potential for prepubescent than postpubescent attriters. As to the underlying mechanisms of age effects, the impediment account, the psychosocial account, and the maturational account are discussed. It is suggested that out of these, the maturational account has the greatest explanatory potential. The chapter concludes with a number of testable principles of age effects on L1 attrition.
Ageing as a Confound in Language Attrition Research: Lexical retrieval, language use, and cognitive and neural changes
Eve Higby, Aviva Lerman, Marta Korytkowska, Taryn Malcolm, and Loraine K. Obler
Language attrition research often focuses on adults living in non-native language environments for many years. Many of these individuals are older adults when tested. Because certain aspects of language are vulnerable to both attrition and ageing (e.g., lexical retrieval), some of the changes observed for language attriters may be due in part to ageing. In this chapter we ask: Are native-language changes for older adult attriters solely a result of reduced levels of native-language use or are they due in part to ageing? We consider neurophysiological changes that may play a role in language attrition and in non-pathological ageing to speculate whether the neurobiological sources of these two processes are similar or different. As attrition and ageing appear to exert independent effects on lexical retrieval decline, one must consider the effects of each of these factors on lexical retrieval for older adult bilinguals immersed in a non-native language environment
Joshua Viau and Ann Bunger
Children acquiring any language must develop an understanding both of how event components are encoded in verb meanings and of the argument structure of those verbs, that is, how the participants of the event that each verb describes map onto linguistic arguments. This chapter begins with an overview of the major issues in the study of argument structure, including a consideration of the balance of power between verbs and constructions as it pertains to the encoding of thematic relations and a comparison of theoretical approaches with an eye toward learnability. The core of the chapter consists of a comprehensive synthesis of the current state of developmental research on argument structure.
This chapter outlines the major studies on second langauge (L2) attrition in Japanese returnees conducted in Japan. It covers research from Yoshida et al.’s study in 1989 to Taura’s study in 2016. Early researchers took an explorative stance to examine what happened to the L2 of Japanese returnees once they had left the L2 milieu. Then researchers shifted their focus towards testing various hypotheses including the regression and retrieval failure hypotheses. Since 2010, a new focus has been given to researching different language areas such as indefinite/definite articles, and story-telling skills. The exploratory data has been further diversified from spontaneous oral and written data to brain-imaging data. The overall findings in attrition research in Japan examining the language loss of Japanese returnees are chronologically detailed, along with how the research focus has shifted using different methods of data collection.
Bilingual education is not just about education and bilingualism. There are dimensions to bilingual education that require a multidisciplinary understanding. It is not just about the use of two languages in the classroom. There are dimensions to bilingual education that involve economics, philosophy, history, sociolinguistics, and, not least, politics as well as language planning. For example, bilingual education is a means of language planning that sometimes seeks to assimilate indigenous and immigrant minorities, or to integrate newcomers or minority groups. At other times, bilingual education is a major plank in language revitalization and preservation. There is the viewpoint of language planners is one essential means of language maintenance, revitalization, and reversing language shift. The benefits of bilingual education are not self-apparent or intrinsically obvious. Therefore, the notion of bilingual education has to be marketed so that both the public and politicians are persuaded and convinced.
The present article poses some fundamental questions related to bilingualism and to the acquisition of two phonological components, by very young children. It discusses different types of bilingualism and their outcomes. After a brief consideration of alleged pros and cons of bilingualism brought up in the past decades, two perspectives of bilingualism are sketched—psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic—and certain aspects of bilingual child phonology are presented from each of these points of view. The essential issue is whether different outcomes of bilingual child phonology are predictable, and to find the crucial criteria to support the predictions. Finally, the discussion addresses some basic questions about bilingual acquisition, and ends with a summary of various types of cross-linguistic interaction.