The Development of Language Processing Strategies: A Cross-Linguistic Study between Japanese and English

The Development of Language Processing Strategies: A Cross-Linguistic Study between Japanese and English

The Development of Language Processing Strategies: A Cross-Linguistic Study between Japanese and English

The Development of Language Processing Strategies: A Cross-Linguistic Study between Japanese and English

Synopsis

Ever since the notion of explanatory adequacywas promoted by Chomsky in his 1965 Aspects, linguists and psycholinguists have been in pursuit of a psychologically valid theory of grammar. To be explanatorily adequate, a theory of grammar can not only describe the general characteristics of a language but can also account for the underlying psychological processes of acquiring and processing that language. To be considered psychologically valid, a grammar must be learnable by ordinary children (the problem of acquisition) and must generate sentences that are parsable by ordinary people (the problem of processing). Ultimately, the fields of language acquisition and processing are concerned with the same goal: to build a theory that accounts for grammar as it is acquired by children; accessed in comprehension and production of speech; and represented within the human mind. Unfortunately, these two fields developed independently and have rarely been well-informed about each other's concerns. Both have experienced past difficulties as a result.

Recently, new models have been developed with full consideration to cross-linguistic diversity. Gone are many of the basic assumptions of conventional models, and in their place a variety of innovative and more flexible assumptions have emerged. However, in their attempt to address cross-linguistic issues, these processing models have yet to fully address the developmental challenge: How can a child without a stable grammar process language and still manage to acquire new grammar?

This book attempts to develop a model of language processing that addresses both cross-linguistic and developmental challenges. It proposes to link the setting of a basic configurational parameter during language acquisition to the different organization of processing strategies in left- and right-branching languages. Based primarily on Mazuka's doctoral dissertation, this volume incorporates various responses to the original proposal as well as the author's responses to the comments.

Excerpt

Ever since the notion of explanatory adequacy was promoted by Chomsky in his 1965 work, Aspects, linguists and psycholinguists have been in pursuit of a psychologically valid theory of grammar. a theory of grammar is said to be explanatorily adequate when it can not only describe the general characteristics of a language but can also account for the underlying psychological processes of acquiring and processing that language. To be considered psychologically valid, a grammar must be learnable by ordinary children (the problem of acquisition) and must generate sentences that are parsable by ordinary people (the problem of processing).

Ultimately, the fields of language acquisition and processing are concerned with the same goal: to build a theory that accounts for grammar as it is acquired by children, accessed in comprehension and production of speech, and represented within the human mind. Unfortunately, however, these two fields developed independently and have rarely been well informed about each others' concerns. the field of language acquisition is primarily concerned with the grammatical knowledge that children acquire, and thus theories of language acquisition attempt to explain how a particular item of linguistic knowledge, for example, the head direction of a language, can be acquired. the field of language processing, on the other hand, takes mature grammatical knowledge as it is given and investigates the mechanisms by which a person can access grammar to comprehend and produce language in real time.

When we examine the mechanisms of language acquisition, it becomes apparent that the language acquisition problem is the language processing problem. For children to acquire a grammar, they must process the language that surrounds them. If they were to be surrounded by Japanese or English, the only way for them to know what kind of language they were exposed to is to process and analyze what they hear. For this, children need a mechanism to process language. Ironically, however, the field of language acquisition has ignored many of the concerns of language processing research--for example, how some sentences are ambiguous or difficult to process--and thus has ended up magically assuming that children are free of such concerns and can process . . .

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