Multiple Grammars and the Logic of Learnability in Second Language Acquisition

  • Roeper T
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The core notion of modern Universal Grammar is that language ability requires abstract representation in terms of hierarchy, movement operations, abstract features on words, and fixed mapping to meaning. These mental structures are a step toward integrating representational knowledge of all kinds into a larger model of cognitive psychology. Examining first and second language at once provides clues as to how abstractly we should represent this knowledge. The abstract nature of grammar allows both the formulation of many grammars and the possibility that a rule of one grammar could apply to another grammar. We argue that every language contains Multiple Grammars which may reflect different language families. We develop numerous examples of how the same abstract rules can apply in various languages and develop a theory of how language modules (case-marking, topicalization, and quantification) interact to predict L2 acquisition paths. In particular we show in depth how Germanic Verb-second operations, based on Verb-final structure, can apply in English. The argument is built around how and where V2 from German can apply in English, seeking to explain the crucial contrast: "nothing" yelled out Bill/(*)"nothing" yelled Bill out in terms of the necessary abstractness of the V2 rule.




Roeper, T. W. (2016). Multiple Grammars and the Logic of Learnability in Second Language Acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

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