Acquisition of syntax and semantics

Stephen Crain*, Rosalind Thornton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary/reference book

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    This chapter discusses reviews the results from experimental investigations of child language. Chomsky (1971) maintained that children would never adopt structure-independent hypotheses, even if the data available to children were consistent with both structure-independent and structure-dependent rules. In other words, children would not be expected to make certain kinds of mistakes in forming Yes/No questions at any stage in language development. In an elicited production study, Crain and Nakayama (1987) evoked Yes/No questions from 30, 3 to 5year-old children, to see if they ever made such mistakes. Although children made certain kinds of errors, they never produced questions that are consistent with structure-independent rules. It has frequently been claimed by advocates of the experience-dependent approach that nativists assume that "no evidence exists that would enable a three-year-old to unlearn" mistaken structure-independent rules, if children were to initially adopt such rules. But no reasonable nativist would endorse such a strong claim about all possible evidence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Psycholinguistics, Second Edition
    EditorsMatthew J. Traxler, Morton A. Gernsbacher
    Place of PublicationAmsterdam ; Boston
    Number of pages38
    ISBN (Print)9780123693747
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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