Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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This paper argues against connectionist models of language acquisition. It examines knowledge of the properties of subjects and objects in Spanish, particularly in impersonal passives and inchoatives. In both of these structures, the reflexive clitic se is obligatorily present and the linear order of elements is the same, namely [se V NP], with agreement between the verb and the noun phrase. In other words, the input is identical in both cases (se quemaron los libros ‘the books burned/were burned’ is ambiguous between both structures). However, the NP in the impersonal passive exhibits some of the properties of objects while the NP in the inchoatives behaves exclusively like a subject. An empirical study shows that three groups of speakers of Spanish, a monolingual Spanish group, an early English/Spanish bilingual group and a group of late learners of Spanish, are aware of these differences. As the input is ambiguous, it is argued that a model such as that provided by connectionist theories, which argues that the input is sufficient for acquisition, cannot account for the data.


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