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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Very Early Utterances in Child Language: Implications for the Minimalist Theory

Vol. 47 No.2  6/2017


Very Early Utterances in Child Language: Implications for the Minimalist Theory


Murasugi Keiko









Key words

Root Infinitives, Root Infinitive analogues, two-word utterances, Minimalist program, scrambling, Universal Grammar


  In this paper, we will revisit the grammar of very early utterances that young children produce at around age 2 under the linguistic theory of the past 50 years. We will argue that very young children in the stage of two words and the telegraphic speech, who already know the head-complement relationship, the basic word order, the morphological properties regarding whether or not the language is agglutinative, have a specific system of φ-feature agreement then, and the detailed mechanism of the operation of Merge and Labeling proposed in the recent Minimalist thesis can be considered to be still under construction.

  Children are free to project unattested hypotheses based on their innately endowed knowledge, and in the course of language acquisition, there are intriguing cases where English-acquiring children fail to match their hypothesis to the input of the target language, thereby producing ‘erroneous’ scrambled sentences. We argue in this paper that the scrambled sentences that very young English-acquiring children produce (e.g., Powers 2000) can naturally be explained by assuming the child-specific system of φ-feature agreement, or the system whose spirit is consistent with AGR/TNS Omission Model (ATOM) (Schütze and Wexler 1996) for the child grammar, and Saito (2016) for the adult grammar.



Author: Murasugi Keiko
Genre: Article
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