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2005 LSA Institute Linguistic Society of America









LSA.215 | Seminar in Major Recent Topics in the Development of Syntax and Semantics

Kenneth Wexler
MW 8:15-9:55
location: 32-141
course web site:

This course will consider major current topics in the development of syntax and semantics, especially with respect to Minimalist syntax and semantic theory. The idea is that students will be exposed to the most advanced topics that are under consideration in the relation between linguistic theory and language development (outside of phonology). Topics will include:

1) The development of phases. Replacement of the A-Chain Delay Hypothesis by the Full Phase Requirement. Accounts of such developmental phenomena as passive, actional versus non-actional verbs, raising, unaccusativity. Why Germanic scrambling is not delayed the way passive and raising are. Cross-linguistic differences in development of what appear to be similar structures on the surface and how to account for them. Nominative omission in Japanese and Korean. An attempt will be made to cover as much of the developmental phenomena in syntax (beyond the Optional Infinitive stage) as is possible, focusing on firm experimental results and what is unknown.

2) Semantic phenomena including the development of determiners. The idea is to study those phenomena and accounts where there are clear ideas related to the formal specification of the semantic properties of the phenomena. Can pragmatic accounts be separated from semantic/computational accounts?

3) If time remains, we will go through the related literature on linguistic impairments, asking to what extent we can understand these phenomena in Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, aphasia and related impairments.

Throughout, the experimental literature and theoretical analysis will be brought into constant interplay, illustrating the remarkable scientific state (compared to past expectations) that language acquisition has achieved.