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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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The child as the locus and agent of grammatical change

The child as the locus and agent of grammatical change

(p.52) Chapter 3 The child as the locus and agent of grammatical change
Language Acquisition and Change

Meisel Jurgen M.

Elsig Martin

Rinke Esther

Edinburgh University Press

Grammatical change has been claimed to happen in the course of transmission of grammatical knowledge from one generation to the next. The locus of change is thus the language learning child, and change is the result of grammatical reanalysis, i.e. when children fail to reconstruct the grammar of the previous generation in at least one point. Yet this should never affect core properties of grammars (paradox of grammatical change), for both the primary linguistic data (PLD) and the acquisition mechanisms are hypothesized to be constrained by UG. In fact, children acquiring a first languages (L1) typically attain full competence, thus attesting the robustness of the LAD. The question then is whether there exist conditions under which the LAD might fail. It has been argued that decreasing frequency of occurrence of a grammatical property, structural ambiguity of a construction, or the presence of more than one grammatical system in the linguistic environment of the learner (language contact) are possible causes of transmission failure. In this chapter, it is argued that neither of them is a sufficient cause of transmission failure in L1 development. Rather, change is only likely to happen if the triggering cues are contained in the PLD; cf. chapters 5, 6.

Keywords:   Locus of change, reanalysis, core properties of grammars, transmission failure, robustness of the LAD, paradox of grammatical change, frequency of occurrence, structural ambiguity, language contact

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