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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the predictions of the Bottleneck Hypothesis for language attrition. The hypothesis compares different degrees of success/difficulty in the acquisition of syntax, semantics, and morphology. Its main tenets are that functional morphology presents the biggest challenge to acquisition, while syntax and semantics are relatively easier to acquire because they employ universal operations. The grammars of early and late attriters are examined to check these expectations. An overview of the literature suggests that early attriters are indeed challenged by inflectional morphology, especially when expressed by large paradigms and when lexical learning of affixes is involved. However, early attriters rarely have issues with basic syntax. Essentially the same picture emerges for late attriters, modulated by linguistic complexity, redundancy of the marker, opaqueness of form–meaning mapping, and usage frequency. While the Bottleneck Hypothesis is too large-grained to explain all findings, its predictions appear to be largely borne out.

Keywords: The Bottleneck Hypothesis, functional morphology, syntax, early attriters, late attriters

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