Universals, innateness and explanation in second language acquisition

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This paper considers the question of explanation in second language acquisition within the context of two approaches to universals, Universal Grammar and language typology. After briefly discussing the logic of explaining facts by including them under general laws (Hempel & Oppenheim 1948), the paper makes a case for the typological approach to explanation being the more fruitful, in that it allows more readily for the possibility of ‘explanatory ascent’, the ability to propose more general, higher order explanations by having lower-level generalizations follow from more general principles. The UG approach, on the other hand is less capable of such explanatory ascent because of the postulation that the innate, domain-specific principles of UG are not reducible in any interesting way to higher order principles of cognition (Chomsky 1982).


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