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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

Building Bridges: Developmental Minimalist Syntax

Thursday 9 December 2021
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Online| get the Zoom-link through the Mailing List


This talk explores an idea that has the potential to build bridges between Minimalist generative grammar and other areas of cognitive science. We propose a direct link between the Minimalist derivation of a sentence and timelines of acquisition by children (which we call Developmental Minimalist Syntax, DMS). DMS proposes that the sequence of operations in the Minimalist derivation of a sentence correlates with timelines of acquisition of those same structures in childhood. This correlates to the long-attested general pattern of lexical categories being acquired before functional categories, but it specifies that what is correlated with acquisition is the Minimalist derivation, rather than structural height itself. This opens the door for an explanation for counter-cyclic phenomena in adult syntax: derivations in which something happens "too early" (look-ahead) or "too late" (Late Merger). We suggest that these correspond to a child's acquisition of a pattern "early" (i.e. before they have acquired the requisite syntactic structures) or "late" (after they have acquired the surrounding syntactic structures).

A longer version of this abstract is available on the ComSyn website.

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