The acquisition of linguistic variation

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Against the backdrop of some traditional generative work on parameters as well as some recent constructivist work, this paper discusses how children handle variation that they are exposed to in the input. Investigating different types of word order variation, the paper finds no evidence for parameters in language acquisition data and instead argues for a model of micro-cues, according to which children are sensitive to fine distinctions in syntax and information structure from early on. Furthermore, the generalizations that are made in the acquisition process are argued to apply only to the relevant class or subcategory. This accounts for the lack of (over-)generalization in child data, often referred to as conservative learning.


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