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  1. 1. The Bioprogram Hypothesis The Roots of Language
  2. 2. The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis <ul><li>Language Bioprogram - Bickerton (1983, 1984) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Children have an innate grammar that, in the absence of proper environmental input, guides the child’s language development  a linguistic backup system </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Using Convergent Data <ul><li>One of Bickerton ’s points is that the three fields concerned by these questions are traditionally treated as unrelated, and that in order to provide answers to each of them, one needs to look into the other fields to obtain sufficient knowledge. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Solves Three Problems <ul><li>1) How do children acquire language? </li></ul><ul><li>2) How did human language originate? </li></ul><ul><li>3) How did creole languages originate? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Some observations <ul><li>Language is complicated </li></ul>DP PP N’ N NP visit DP his DP D’ D DP [poss] to the hospital i VP IP V V’ I’ I [past] DP upset j t j t i her DP
  6. 6. Some observations <ul><li>Children always succeed </li></ul><ul><li>Children arrive at the same language as the rest of their speech community </li></ul><ul><li>This is remarkable, given the data that children learn language from. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The poverty of the stimulus problem <ul><li>A paradox: Children reliably acquire a complex system from a degenerate set of data. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The language that children hear is incomplete. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They know things that they are never exposed to. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. The poverty of the stimulus <ul><li>children exposed to data containing errors </li></ul><ul><li>different children exposed to different data </li></ul><ul><li>children don’t get negative evidence </li></ul><ul><li>children aren’t directly rewarded </li></ul><ul><li>children get incomplete data </li></ul>
  9. 9. The poverty of the stimulus problem <ul><li>A solution: Universal Grammar </li></ul><ul><li>Children are born with a language instinct </li></ul>
  10. 10. Language acquisition An interaction between grammar and data S --> NP VP NP --> DET N VP --> V NP PP PP --> P NP S --> S and S NP --> NP and NP
  11. 11. Apparent Complexity <ul><li>“ A striking discovery of modern generative grammar is that natural languages seem to be built on the same basic plan. Many differences among languages represent not separate designs but different settings of a few &quot;parameters&quot; that allow languages to vary, or different choices of rule types from a fairly small inventory of possibilities.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pinker, Language Acquisition </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Universal Grammar: the basic idea Input (data) Output (grammar) “ An engineer faced with the problem of designing a device for meeting the given input-output conditions would naturally conclude that the basic properties of the output are a consequence of the design of the device. Nor is there any plausible alternative to this assumption” Chomsky (1967) Acquisition device
  13. 13. UG and language acquisition <ul><li>UG helps in two ways: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Principles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Certain invariant properties of language. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parameters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A small set of dimensions along which languages can vary. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Parameter Setting <ul><li>Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 1981) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grammar  a set of parameters corresponding to each of the subsystems of the language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Each parameter has a finite number of possible settings) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Various combinations of parameter settings  all of the languages of the world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Children are born with the knowledge of the parameters and their possible settings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language Acquisition  identifying which parameter settings apply to one’s native language </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Parameter Setting <ul><li>Head Parameter (Cook, 1988) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each phrase in the language has one essential element called head </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noun in noun phrases, verb in verb phrases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The head parameter specifies the position of the head within the phrase </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>English – a head first language </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The man with the bow tie </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Liked him </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Nice to see </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>To the bank </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Japanese – a head last language </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Watashi wa nihongin desu (I Japanese am) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Parameter Setting <ul><li>Null-Subject Parameter (Hyams, 1986) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Italian, Spanish – grammatically acceptable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>English – not permitted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Children are born with this parameter set to the null-subject value (default value) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex) Play it </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex) Eating cereal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex) Shake hands </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex) See window </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Parameter Setting <ul><li>Subset Principle (Berwick and Weinberg, 1984) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Children begin to search through possible languages by beginning with the smallest subset available (that is, the most restrictive language). If there is no evidence from their linguistic input that this is their native language, they proceed to the next largest subset until they find a match </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The Issue of Negative Evidence <ul><li>Positive Evidence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence that a particular utterance is grammatical in the language that the child is learning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Negative Evidence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence that a particular utterance is ungrammatical </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pinker (1990) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It would be very difficult to acquire a language from positive evidence alone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negative evidence, which could constrain the problem space, is not generally available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Therefore, some constraints must be innate </li></ul></ul><ul><li> Although negative evidence is present and may assist language development, research has not shown that it is necessary </li></ul><ul><li> Justification for innate mechanisms </li></ul>
  19. 19. Motherese <ul><li>The ways adults speak to young children </li></ul><ul><li>(Adult-to-Child Language, or Child-directed Speech) </li></ul><ul><li>In general, speech to children learning language is shorter , more concrete , more directive , and more intonationally exaggerated than adult-directed speech </li></ul><ul><li>Such properties would assist children in their language development but data on this question are relatively scarce, and widely different opinions exist on the matter </li></ul>
  20. 20. Motherese <ul><li>Motherese Hypothesis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is a relationship between the speech adjustments adult make and children’s language development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong form of the motherese hypothesis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Motherese features are necessary for language to develop properly; absence of features  child’s language difficulty </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Weak form of the motherese hypothesis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Motherese features assist a child’s development </li></ul></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Motherese <ul><li>Correlational studies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Newport & Gleitman, 1977 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>L imited relationships between parental speech and child language . Mothers who used more yes/no questions had children who used more auxiliaries but most aspects of child language were unrelated </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Motherese <ul><li>Brown & Hanlon </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tested the notion that reinforcement affects development. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Found that parents actually ignore syntax and respond to meaning: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Truth value vs grammaticality. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ he cow” (in the presence of a sheep) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ No darling, that’s a sheep.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ he cow” (in the presence of a cow) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Yes, and she’s drinking water.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Universal Grammar <ul><li>Innate linguistic knowledge which guides children during language acquisition. </li></ul><ul><li>defines the range of possible human languages </li></ul><ul><li>gives an acquisition procedure for picking the correct grammar (LAD) </li></ul>
  24. 24. Language Evolution <ul><li>How and when did homo sapiens develop the capacity for true language? </li></ul><ul><li>Bickerton (1990) assumes a &quot;catastrophic&quot; scenario in regard to the development of language. </li></ul><ul><li>A singular genetic mutation made the development of true language possible. </li></ul>
  25. 25. What are the features which distinguish protolanguage from true language? <ul><li>Protolanguage does not have: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(1) use of grammatical items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(2) systematic expansion of structure in phrases and clauses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(3) obligatory expression of subcategorized arguments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(4) automatic identification of null elements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(5) varied order of words to mark varied functions, as in question and statement. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. The standard story <ul><li>Pidgin—verbal system used by linguistically diverse people stuck with the need to communicate. </li></ul><ul><li>Idea: Pidgins are unsystematic, simple, without distinctions of tense, modality, aspect, generally without word order restrictions, mainly just nouns and verbs, the bare minimum for moderately successful communication. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Pidgins <ul><li>Pidgins are not a natural language. </li></ul><ul><li>Hawaiian Pidgin English (HPE)… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You see, I got wood there; plenty men here no job, come steal. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Honolulu come; plenty more come; too much pineapple there. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No can. I try hard get good ones. Before, plenty duck; now, no more. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All ’ight, all ’ight, I go; all same, by’n bye Honolulu all Japanese. </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Imagine that’s what kids hear <ul><li>Kids are little language acquisition machines. They abstract the regularity from the input, set parameters, have a grammar. </li></ul><ul><li>What if they have a pidgin for an input? </li></ul><ul><li>Idea: They’re getting non-language data. What is their LAD supposed to do with that? </li></ul>
  29. 29. What kids seem to do <ul><li>In fact, what seems to happen is that kids faced with pidgin input will impose structure on the input, will learn a language that doesn’t match what they hear. </li></ul><ul><li>The language kids grow up speaking has tense, aspect marking, has complex (embedded) sentences, and so forth. </li></ul><ul><li>Kids innovate language features. A creole. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Bickerton <ul><li>Bickerton’s hypothesis is that this is evidence of a bioprogram for language. Kids are built to learn a language, language has a structure, kids will learn a language even in the face of non-language input. </li></ul><ul><li>Roughly speaking, UG and LAD. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Some innovations <ul><li>HPE: S always before O (functional) </li></ul><ul><li>HCE: basically SVO, but allows other orders for pragmatic use. </li></ul><ul><li>HPE: definite/indefinite articles if at all used fairly randomly. </li></ul><ul><li>HCE: Definite da used for all and only known specific references. Indefinite wan used for all and only unknown specific references. Other NPs have no article. No marker of plurality. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Some innovations <ul><li>HCE: bin marks tense, go marks modality, stei marks aspect (i.e., - ed , will , -ing ). </li></ul><ul><li>Wail wi stei paedl, jaen stei put wata insaid da kanu—hei, da san av a gan haed sink! ‘While we were paddling, John was letting water into the canoe—hey, the son-of-a-gun had sunk it!’ </li></ul><ul><li>As tu bin get had taim reizing dag. ‘The two of us used to have a hard time raising dogs.’ </li></ul>
  33. 33. Some innovations <ul><li>HCE: complementizers fo , go — </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mo beta a bin go hanalulu fo bai maiself. ‘It would have been better if I’d gone to Honolulu to buy it myself.’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ai gata go haia wan kapinta go fiks da fom. ‘I had to hire a carpenter to fix the form.’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Where go =occurred, fo =hypothetical. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Pidgin + kid = creole <ul><li>Idea is that kid (LAD) filters the non-language input into a language system, resulting in a real human language, a creole. </li></ul><ul><li>Bickerton claims a creole is a nearly pure reflection of the “bioprogram”, of UG. </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence is that kids are going beyond the input in a way which is particularly clear. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Several authors have observed that the creolization situation really isn’t significantly different from normal language acquisition—kids with regular language input are still getting much less information than they’d need without UG. </li></ul></ul>