ERIC Number: EJ799945
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jul
Reference Count: 30
Commentary on "The Acquisition of Inflection: A Parameter Setting Approach"
Lillo-Martin, Diane; Snyder, William
Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, v15 n3 p210-215 Jul 2008
This article presents the authors' comments on Nina Hyams' article, "The Acquisition of Inflection: A Parameter Setting Approach" (AIPSA). The article began as a 1986 presentation at the Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD). Parts of it were also presented at the 4th Eastern States Conference on Linguistics (ESCOL) in 1987 and published in the proceedings (Hyams (1988)). AIPSA was written only three years after completion of Hyams' (1983) dissertation, a work which is often credited with jump-starting the parameter-setting approach to language acquisition. A central proposal of AIPSA was the Stem Parameter: A verbal stem does/does not constitute a well-formed word. Where Hyams (1986) explored the possible consequences of a nonadult parameter setting, AIPSA proposed that children set the Stem Parameter to its adult value very early. Nonadult behavior followed from the children obeying the parameter setting more strictly than adults do. While researchers had long noted the delay in correct use of verbal inflection by English-learning children, Hyams' idea of linking this to the process of parameter-setting was entirely novel. In the authors' work (Snyder (2007), Snyder and Lillo-Martin (in press)), they find a great deal of value in the classical conception of a parameter: a point of abstract variation with simultaneous consequences for superficially unrelated areas of grammar. This conception is independent of where exactly the parameters are located in the grammar, and (crucially) preserves the central appeal of the parameter-setting model of acquisition. Unlike Hyams' original view, however, Snyder proposes that children do not pass through any stages of mis-set parameters. Rather, he finds strong evidence that children hold back when they have not yet determined the target parameter-setting, and avoid using structures that depend on this parameter. When the target parameter-setting is determined, children are able to use all the structures associated with the particular parameter.
Descriptors: Language Acquisition, Verbs, Morphemes, Children, Child Language, Linguistic Theory, Grammar
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
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