The Acquisition of Word Order

Micro-cues, information structure, and economy

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Within a new model of language acquisition, this book discusses verb second (V2) word order in situations where there is variation in the input. While traditional generative accounts consider V2 to be a parameter, this study shows that, in many languages, this word order is dependent on fine distinctions in syntax and information structure. Thus, within a split-CP model of clause structure, a number of <i>micro-cues</i> are formulated, taking into account the specific context for V2 vs. non-V2 (clause type, subcategory of the elements involved, etc.). The micro-cues are produced in children’s I-language grammars on exposure to the relevant input. Focusing on a dialect of Norwegian, the book shows that children generally produce target-consistent V2 and non-V2 from early on, indicating that they are sensitive to the micro-cues. This includes contexts where word order is dependent on information structure. The children’s occasional non-target-consistent behavior is accounted for by economy principles.

Subjects: Theoretical linguistics; Language acquisition; Generative linguistics; Syntax; Germanic linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Tromsø/CASTL

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