Thessaloniki, 6-8 September 2011

GALA 2011

Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition

GALA 2011 Workshop
Phonological representations in early language acquisition

Organized by: Barbara Höhle

The workshop will focus on the emergence and the development of phonological representation in early first language acquisition. Recent research has shown that infants are equipped with highly efficient perceptual and learning mechanism that allow for a fast attunement to features of the phonological system of the target language during the first year of life (c.f. Curtin & Hufnagle, 2009) . On the other hand data from production and word learning studies suggest that the establishment of phonological representations underlying early production and comprehension is a longer-lasting process extending over the first years of life (Floccia et al., 2010; Stager & Werker, 1997, but Yoshida et al., 2009). From the developmental perspective one of the intriguing questions is how perception and the emergence of abstract phonological representations are interrelated. What are the contributions of data-driven learning and of universal phonological constraints in the emerging phonological system of the child? How are perception and production related?
This workshop aims at bringing researchers together who work in all kinds of areas in early phonological development covering all aspects of this research area: i.e. early perceptual development and attunement to specific phonological properties of the language including segmental and suprasegmental aspects; phonological bootstrapping to other linguistic domains like the lexicon, syntax and pragmatics; phonological representations in the acquisition of the lexicon. Contributions to all kinds of variations of language acquisition like simultaneous multilingual acquisition, phonological development in clinical populations are welcome as well.

GALA 2011 Workshop
Syntax and Pragmatics: Division of Labour in Acquisition

Organized by: Joao Costa & Spyridoula Varlokosta

The literature on acquisition of syntax in the late 80s and 90s revealed that children's syntactic knowledge is very precocious. In fact, there is evidence showing that many syntactic parameters are set at a pre-lexical stage (e.g. Wexler 1998), that knowledge of functional structure is available at the time children utter their first two word utterances (e.g. Hyams 1992) and that knowledge of principles such as subjacency or binding are evident from early on (e.g. Chien and Wexler 1990).
The fact that children's utterances are not target-like was attributed to specific aspects of pragmatic knowledge that would be acquired late (e.g. Rizzi 1993/1994).
However, literature from the last decade reveals that children master some pragmatic knowledge from very early on as well (e.g. de Cat 2003, Crain et al. 2002). Recent research reveals accurate production and comprehension of information structure, good mastery of certain implicatures and a good domain of some aspects related to co-reference.
As it stands, it is reasonable to assume that certain aspects of both syntactic and pragmatic knowledge are acquired very early. However, for such a statement to be productive, it is important to qualify it. The aim of this workshop is to provide answers to questions like the following:

  1. When children produce target-deviant sentences, which aspects can be explained in terms of late acquisition of syntax?
  2. When children produce target-deviant sentences, which aspects can be explained in terms of late acquisition of pragmatics?
  3. What types of structures/parameters/principles are good candidates for late acquisition? What unifies them?
  4. What type of pragmatic knowledge is a good candidate for late acquisition?
  5. When there is no consensus on whether a certain category is a syntactic primitive (e.g. topic, focus, etc.), can acquisition facts shed light on its status?
  6. What do acquisition facts tell us about the syntax-pragmatics interface?
  7. Is there cross-linguistic variation in the acquisition of the syntax-pragmatics interface? If there is, how can one explain it?