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Core 101 notes - b Chomsky Innateness of human language is...

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b3/10/03 Chomsky Innateness of human language is represented in human species in genes, such as walking upright, drinking, etc. This is activated by a genetic program. There is a U.G., or Universal grammar. There are two basic properties of language. There is formative language, and substantive language. Rules are structure dependent: The man who is inviting us is paying the bill. Can make a question out of that: Is the man who is inviting us paying the bill? There are structural rules, and shown by a structural tree. The rules are dependent on the structure, or STRUCTURAL DEPENDENT. That is a formative universal. The substantive rules mean that there is a distinction between noun and verb that is universal. There is also a subjancency constraint, which means that there are constraints on how far you can move a “WH” word and still have the sentence make sense. The reason that all languages have these properties is that they are innately represented. Language acquisition also plays a major role in innateness hypothesis. Across all cultures, children seem to acquire languages at the same rate, just as they acquire the ability to walk at the same rate. The amount of data children are exposed to in the first 2 years is NOT ENOUGH for the rate and rapidity of language acquisition. Chomsky argues that children can do this because they have an innate preprogramming. The Learnability Problem: If there are X amount of sentences (nearly an infinite set) that are grammatically possible in a language, and a child is exposed to only a subset Y, for any sentence that a child has not heard, how does the child know whether that sentence is grammatical or not? A child is only given positive evidence from day-to-day, and not negative evidence. When learning a second language, you are often given negative evidence (ie., you cannot say that). Chomsky’s answer: What enables children to distinguish grammatical from ungrammatical is positive evidence PLUS innateness of language. It’s a lot easier to learn things if you’re set up in advance with particular knowledge. Problems with theory: Even if we identity the portions that are relevant, we can’t manipulate human subjects. But theoretically, we should be able to identify the parts of the human genome that are relevant. Why does innate ability go “bad” after a while? Why does it get more and more difficult to learn a language? One idea that has been proposed is that of brain specialization. When you are born, both spheres of the brain are involved in language acquisition when born, but then the brain becomes more specialized. Same critical age for musicians. Universals: Not all languages have same restrictions on language in terms of universals. The strictness differs. If you are more complex in one area, tend to be simpler in another. Innateness: How much of child’s learning is innate such that you can project what
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course BUAD 305 taught by Professor Davila during the Spring '07 term at USC.

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Core 101 notes - b Chomsky Innateness of human language is...

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