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Language Acquisition and ChangeA Morphosyntactic Perspective$
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Jurgen Meisel, Martin Elsig, and Esther Rinke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748642250

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748642250.001.0001

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Variation and change in languages

Variation and change in languages

(p.1) Chapter 1 Variation and change in languages
Language Acquisition and Change

Meisel Jurgen M.

Elsig Martin

Rinke Esther

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that variation is a constitutive property of language use; its study allows one to explain how grammars change over time. The present discussion is concerned with the latter issue, i.e. the restructuring of grammars underlying language use. Starting from the assumption that language acquisition is a likely source of change, it is argued that explanations of diachronic changes must not stand in conflict with what is known about the human Language Making Capacity in general and, more specifically, about the Language Acquisition Device and the principles constraining acquisition. But although the individual is hypothesized to be the locus of change, it is argued that adequate accounts of diachronic change cannot ignore the fact that speakers share their linguistic knowledge with other members of speech communities. The main question pursued in this book is how core properties of grammars change, i.e. those aspects of grammars which have been shown to be most resistant to change. In the theoretical framework adopted here, this concerns principles constrained by Universal Grammar (UG), most importantly syntactic parameters.

Keywords:   Linguistic variation, restructuring of grammars, parameters, Universal Grammar, language acquisition, Language Making Capacity, Language Acquisition Device

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