LOT Summer School 2018

Perspectives on modern acquisition theory: the emergence of self-embedding recursion

Tom Roeper



Title of the course:

Perspectives on Modern Acquisition theory: the emergence of self-embedding recursion, Strict Interfaces, and implications for Linguistic Theory



Course description:

First we ask: Where does acquisition theory stand? We will discuss the claim that there are Strict, innate mechanical Interfaces (not simply "3rd Factor effects"). A theory of Interfaces that encompasses semantics and pragmatics will be discussed, involving ellipsis, presupposition, and implicatures. For instance, why older children make presupposition errors in English and German with but and ausser (every student came, but my mother => my mother is a student). Strict Interfaces as a learnability criterionmodifies the original concept of learnability. Recent theories of Multiple Grammars and Statistical competition will be discussed as well.

Then we turn to Recursion for self-embedding:Possessives (John's friend's father's hat) for PPs,Relatives, Adjectives, andSentences.We willfocus on production/comprehension differences,whether semantics are restrictive, evidence of recursion "avoidance".

Then we will turn to cross-linguistic forms of recursion for Dutch and German, Romanian, Hungarian, Piraha, indigenous Amazon languages and Japanese, etc.One focus will be on the question of whether left- and right branching self-embedded recursion are connected.

Finally we will discuss connections to False Belief, the Successor Principle in mathematics, and Chomsky's claim (2014) that grammar mirrors thought.

On the last day we will consider recursion from the perspective of cyclic wh-movement and new evidence on 3 clause extraction in acquisition and counter-claims (Omaki and LIdz).

Students will be encouraged to design their own new experiments (on any unstudied structure) and to undertake narrowly defined searches on CHILDES in any language.And Students will be are invited to briefly present results from searches or experimental ideas (as far as possible).

Day-to-day program:

Monday: Acquisition Theories

Tuesday False Belief,the connection to the Successor Principle in math

Wednesday Chomsky's claim about thought = language

Thursday Recursive wh-movement: 3 clauses

Friday:; Student presentations; General Discussion

Reading list:

Background and preparatory readings

General introductory background:

Handbook of Generative Approaches to Acquisition (2011) Springer. Eds. J. deVilliers and T. Roeper.

(Specifically: On the acquisition of Wh-movement)


Complexity in Cognition (2014) eds. M. Speas and T. Roeper (Springer)

Yang, C. (2016) The Price of Productivity (MIYT Press)

Experimental Suggestions:

Prism of Grammar (2007) T. Roeper (MIT Press)

Course readings:

Lecture 1:

  • Chomsky (2014) Minimal Recursion. In Roeper/ Speas
  • Roeper, T.(2011, to appear) Strict Interfaces
  • Language Sciences (2014)
  • Yang, C.(2016) Excerpt: the Price of Productivity

Lecture 2:

  • Hollebrandse, B. and T. Roeper (2014) Empirical Results And Formal Approaches to Recursion in Acquisition. In Roeper/ Speas
  • Perez-Leroux, Ana T., Anny Castilla-Earls, Susana Be ́jar, Diane Massam & Tyler Peterson. Strong continuity and children’s development of DP recursion in Amaral et al.
  • Merx, M.(2016)“ The production and comprehension of recursive possessive and preposition phrases of Dutch children and adults “ Groningen BA thesis

Lecture 3:

  • Sandalo, Filomena, Cilene Rodrigues, Tom Roeper, Luiz Amaral, Mar- cus Maia & Glauber Romling. Self-embedded recursive postpositional phrases in Piraha ̃: a pilot study in Amaral et al
  • Terunuma,A.and T. Nakato.Recursive possessives in Child Japanese
  • Recursion across Domains and Latitudes (2018, CUP) eds. L. Amaral, A.Nevins,M. Maia, T. Roeper with studies in many indigenous languages.

Lecture 4:

  • Hollebrandse, Bart. Indirect recursion: the importance of second-order embedding and its implications for cross-linguistic research
  • Hauser, M. and J. Watumull (2017) The Universal Generative Faculty: The source of our expressive power in language, mathematics, morality, and musicJournal of Neurolinguistics 43 (2017) 78e9

Lecture 5:

  • deVilliers ppt overview of wh-movement