Invited talk: Jeffrey Lidz

Inside the Language Acquisition Device: Insights from Kannada

Perhaps one of the most famous functions in linguistic theory is the one in (1), aimed at setting the criteria for explanatory adequacy in linguistic theory:

(1) Input + LAD ->  Grammar

A theory of grammar achieves explanatory force to the degree that it contributes to our understanding of how children acquire a language based on only partial evidence for the structures underlying that language. Often, the LAD is equated with the theory of Universal Grammar, setting constraints on possible grammars. However, a complete theory of LAD must also explain how children perceive their input and how those perceptions are linked to hypotheses generated by UG to drive the construction of a particular grammar. In this talk, I use a range of phenomena from the acquisition of Kannada to explore the internal structure of the LAD. These phenomena highlight the role of children’s parsing mechanisms in shaping how they perceive their input and the role that UG plays in defining what input is informative for identifying the mapping between the structures provided by UG and the sentences of the language. Phenomena to be examined include (a) the acquisition of quantifier scope, (b) the interpretation of causative morphology and (c) the acquisition of ditransitive constructions.