Feature structure

In a previous essay, I introduced (un)interpretable features as the mechanism that powers syntactic derivations.  And in another previous essay I introduced a variety of internal and interface feature types.  In this essay, I attempt to unify these disparate feature types.  In particular, I consider different options for the internal structure of features.  It is clear that words are not stand-alone objects: they are bundles of phonological, semantic and syntactic features.  But features are not stand-alone objects, either.  Read the full PDF here: Feature structure

Linguistic features

The Modularity Hypothesis (MH) holds that the brain is composed of a number of discrete modules.  Modules have two basic properties: (i) they are domain-specific (i.e. each module relates to a special area of cognition), and (ii) they are semi-autonomous (i.e. information can only be transferred across modules via interface levels).  The Language Faculty (FL) – or Universal Grammar (UG) – is one such module.  Read the full PDF here: Linguistic features

Bilingual language acquisition

Bilingual children are capable of greater cognitive flexibility than monolinguals (Iwashita and Liem 2005).  They switch between strategies more effectively than monolinguals do (Kovács & Mehler 2009a) and they perform better at learning two rules at the same time (Kovács & Mehler 2009b).  It is possible that bilingual children benefit from a greater variety of cortical sites that are activated by second language processing (Libben 2011).  Read the full PDF here: Bilingual language acquisition

First language acquisition: Root Infinitives

A new-born child is sensitive to the sound system of its native language(s).  All children acquire their native language(s) according to the same acquisition timetable.  Moreover, parental intervention has no effect on this process.  It is clear that young children need the right kind of input to acquire language.  But it is also clear that linguistic input does not alter the course of acquisition.  It seems that young children are predisposed to the task of language acquisition.  There are two approaches: (i) generativist and (ii) emergentist.  The generativist approach assumes that some linguistic knowledge is innate.  The emergentist approach does not make this assumption.  Read the full PDF here: Root Infinitives

The Minimalist Program (MP)

Linguistics is the scientific study of language.  Theoretical linguistics is the study of the four components of grammar: phonology, semantics, syntax and morphology.  The language faculty is a module (in the sense of the Modularity Hypothesis, MH) that is referred to as Faculty of Language in a Narrow sense (FLN).  The Universal Grammar (UG) hypothesis claims that young children acquire language thanks to a set of universal operations and a set of universal linguistic features.  The features provide the inputs to these operations.  In this essay I introduce a leading account for how these operations unfold in FLN.  Read the full PDF here: The Minimalist Program

Generative syntax (part 2 of 2)

Generative syntax assumes that all sentence structures of natural language are generated by a dedicated language module within the brain.  The syntactic hierarchy consists of (i) words, (ii) constituents and (iii) sentences.  In the previous essay, I considered some basic properties of words and constituents.  In this essay, I consider sentences in more detail.  In section 1, I introduce tree diagrams and discuss two alternative structures.  In section 2, I introduce the lexical tier.  In section 3, I introduce the X-bar scheme.  In section 4, I introduce the functional tier.  In section 5, I briefly consider semi-lexical elements.  Read the full PDF here: Generative syntax 2

Generative syntax (part 1 of 2)

Morphology is the study of how morphemes combine to form words.  Syntax is the study of how words and phrases combine to form sentences.  There are two approaches: (i) emergentist and (ii) generativist.  In the first approach, an infant develops his or her knowledge of various sentence structures over the course of development.  In the second approach, an infant acquires the full range of available structures from a dedicated language module within the brain.  In this essay I am concerned with generative approaches to syntax.  Read the full PDF here: Generative syntax 1