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  • Print publication year: 1994
  • Online publication date: May 2011

14 - Finiteness and head movement in early child grammars

Summary

The problem of inflection

It has long been observed in the study of developmental linguistics that at an early age the child often omits verbal inflection or provides the “wrong” inflection (one that is wrong for the adult grammar that is developing). There are two traditional views concerning the explanation of this phenomenon. One view assumes that young children do not know about inflection and that they have to “learn” to “add” inflection. Knowledge of inflection is measured by the proportion of times that the inflection appears in obligatory contexts. This proportion increases over time, indicating greater knowledge. Possibly children learn to add inflection on a verb by verb basis. One variant of the view claims that at a young age even the verbs that a child produces with inflection are not truly inflected verbs. Rather they are unanalyzed “wholes.” On this view, the child does not understand the inflectional processes. Rather, inflection simply becomes stronger, as an associative element of a verb. We can call this the “Growing Strength” (GS) view.

An altogether opposite view is that the child does know the grammar of inflection. What she does not know are the forms of inflection. On this view the child knows not only the UG that underlies inflection, but also knows all the properties of the language that is developing except one set of properties—namely, the particular set of morphological forms that express the inflectional properties.

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Verb Movement
  • Online ISBN: 9780511627705
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511627705
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