SPEAKER: William Snyder (University of Connecticut)
TITLE: "Parameters: The view from child language"
ABSTRACT. A central advance in theoretical linguistics has been the idea of "parameters" — by which I mean points of tightly constrained variation within an otherwise invariant computational system. Under this broad construal of the term, a parameter might take the form of a relative ranking between two UG-provided constraints, for example, or a selection of UG-provided features to associate with a functional head, as well as the n-ary, switch-like choice points of Chomsky (1981).
In any principles-and-parameters system, children's acquisition of grammar largely reduces to identifying the correct parametric values for the target language. Questions that immediately arise for such an approach include the following: What parameters in fact exist in the human language faculty? What, in general, is the nature of these parameters? How does the child determine the correct values of the parameters? And how does this process of parameter-setting relate to the observable time-course of child language development? I will discuss a number of acquisitional findings that bear on these questions.
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Send questions, comments, speaker suggestions to Dianne Bradley, DBradley@gc.cuny.edu