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Annual Review of Language Acquisition

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ISSN 1568-1467
E-ISSN 1569-965X

<p>The <em>Annual Review</em> was devoted to research in the domain of first language acquisition, i.e., the process of acquiring command of a first language, and studies in which first language acquisition was compared to second language acquistion, as well as studies on language acquisition under abnormal conditions. </p><p><em>Publication discontinued as of volume 3 (2003).</em></p>

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  • Language discrimination by newborns: Teasing apart phonotactic, rhythmic, and intonational cues
    • Author: Franck Ramus
    • Source: Annual Review of Language Acquisition, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2002, pages: 85 –115
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    • Speech rhythm has long been claimed to be a useful bootstrapping cue in the very first steps of language acquisition. Previous studies have suggested that newborn infants do categorize varieties of speech rhythm, as demonstrated by their ability to discriminate between certain languages. However, the existing evidence is not unequivocal: in previous studies, stimuli discriminated by newborns always contained additional speech cues on top of rhythm. Here, we conducted a series of experiments assessing discrimination between Dutch and Japanese by newborn infants, using a speech resynthesis technique to progressively degrade non-rhythmical properties of the sentences. When the stimuli are resynthesized using identical phonemes and artificial intonation contours for the two languages, thereby preserving only their rhythmic and broad phonotactic structure, newborns still seem to be able to discriminate between the two languages, but the effect is weaker than when intonation is present. This leaves open the possibility that the temporal correlation between intonational and rhythmic cues might actually facilitate the processing of speech rhythm.
  • Optimality Theory and phonological acquisition
  • Phonological theory and the development of prosodic structure: Evidence from child Japanese
    • Author: Mitsuhiko Ota
    • Source: Annual Review of Language Acquisition, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2001, pages: 65 –118
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    • This article presents a model of prosodic structure development that takes account of the fundamental continuity between child and adult systems, the surface level divergence of child forms from their adult target forms, and the overall developmental paths of prosodic structure. The main empirical base for the study comes from longitudinal data collected from three Japanese-speaking children (1; 0–2; 6). Evidence for word-internal prosodic constituents including the mora and the foot is found in compensatory lengthening phenomena, syllable size restrictions and word size restrictions in early word production. By implementing the representational principles that organize these prosodic categories as rankable and violable constraints, Optimality Theory can provide a systematic account of the differences in the prosodic structure of child and adult Japanese while assuming representational continuity between the two. A constraint-based model of prosodic structure acquisition is also shown to demarcate the learning paths in a way that is consistent with the data.
  • Early sensitivity to linguistic form
  • The development of the copula in Child English: The lightness of be
    • Author: Misha Becker
    • Source: Annual Review of Language Acquisition, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2002, pages: 37 –58
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    • The dissertation summarized here provides an account of the fact that young children acquiring English (around age 2) often produce utterances like (1), in which they omit a form of the copula, be. (1)I in the kitchen.Children’s production of forms like (1) is interesting for two main reasons: firstly, utterances like these do not occur in the input (adult English); secondly, children’s omission of the copula conforms to a systematic pattern (it is neither across the board, nor haphazard). In particular, children omit the copula far less frequently in utterances like (2). (2)He’s a dog.The difference between the constructions in (1) and (2) can be characterized in terms of the well-known semantic stage-level/individual-level contrast. That is, a location such as ‘in the kitchen’ denotes a stage-level property of the subject; a predicate such as ‘a dog’ denotes an individual-level property of the subject. I argue for a syntactic difference between stage- and individual-level predicates: stage-level predicates contain additional functional structure (AspP) that individual-level predicates lack. Cross-linguistic support for this proposal is provided. As for why children acquiring English omit the copula in main clauses, I link this to the fact that non-finite main clauses are permitted in child English. I define finiteness in terms of a binding relation between an abstract Tense Operator (TOP) (located in CP) and Infl. In certain grammars (among them child English) TOP may bind Asp instead of Infl, if Asp is projected in the particular clause. However, this binding relation does not result in the clause being finite. Since Asp is projected in clauses with stage-level predicates, but not in those with individual-level predicates, it follows that stage-level predicates may occur in non-finite clauses while individual-level predicates occur with a finite clause. Coupled with the hypothesis that an overt copula is finite (in the sample studied here it is inflected over 99% of the time) and an omitted copula indicates non-finiteness, the pattern of copula omission and production in child English is accounted for.
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