Syntactic Theory and First Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives - Vol. 2

Syntactic Theory and First Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives - Vol. 2

Syntactic Theory and First Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives - Vol. 2

Syntactic Theory and First Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives - Vol. 2


Universal Grammar (UG) is a theory of both the fundamental principles for all possible languages and the language faculty in the "initial state" of the human organism. These two volumes approach the study of UG by joint, tightly linked studies of both linguistic theory and human competence for language acquisition. In particular, the volumes collect comparable studies across a number of different languages, carefully analyzed by a wide range of international scholars.

The issues surrounding cross-linguistic variation in "Heads, Projections, and Learnability" (Volume 1) and in "Binding, Dependencies, and Learnability" (Volume 2) are arguably the most fundamental in UG. How can principles of grammar be learned by general learning theory? What is biologically programmed in the human species in order to guarantee their learnability? What is the true linguistic representation for these areas of language knowledge? What universals exist across languages?

The two volumes summarize the most critical current proposals in each area, and offer both theoretical and empirical evidence bearing on them. Research on first language acquisition and formal learnability theory is placed at the center of debates relative to linguistic theory in each area. The convergence of research across several different disciplines -- linguistics, developmental psychology, and computer science -- represented in these volumes provides a paradigm example of cognitive science.


The collected works in these two volumes were first presented at a symposium held at Cornell University, April 24-26, 1992, entitled Syntactic Theory and First Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives. At this symposium, about 200 scholars, working on many different languages, gathered to hear about 45 papers, commentaries, and debates, and to participate in discussions of the most recent research results. The papers were grouped into panels, in order to bring together scholars who were working on similar issues across different languages, and in order to encourage active debate on vital issues in the field.

We hope that these volumes can bring to the reader a sense of the great energy, intense enthusiasm, and highly positive (albeit pointed) debate at the symposium. That energy and highly focused intellectual exchange convinced us that our field had reached a new dimension of scientific inquiry.

This new dimension is essentially interdisciplinary. The chapters in these volumes (like the symposium itself) conjoin research in linguistic theory (i.e., the theory of natural language representation), with research in first language acquisition. The acquisition research is conducted in a precise manner, guided by linguistic theory as well as by scientific method. The strongest, most general result of this research convergence is that there is now a new and closer relation between theoretical research and acquisition research. The strengthened interaction across these fields has produced new energy, new significance, and new validation for each. In addition, the research reported here integrates, in a new, more precise manner, the field of formal learnability theory emerging from computer science.

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