Speaker Series: David Lightfoot (Georgetown Univ.)

Title: Triggers and dominoes

Generativists often see children acquiring their I-language by flicking on/off switches on binary parameters and evaluating the generative capacity of I-languages against a corpus of sentences. Such ideas are problematic and invite alternatives.
Here I argue that children parse E-language and postulate specific I-language elements required for certain aspects of the parse. The aggregation of elements constitutes the complete I-language. When E-language shifts, children may parse differently and thus attain a new I-language, as revealed in work on syntactic change. Children DISCOVER variable properties of their I-languages through parsing; there is no evaluation of I-languages and no binary parameters. Rather, UG is open in certain ways and this enables us to understand a sequence of idiosyncratic changes to the I-languages of speakers of English.
Friday, April 7, 2017 - 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 401 (3340 Walnut Street)