William Snyder | Tsing Hua University Colloquium

William Snyder will be giving a colloquium talk at Tsing Hua University on 29th October 2021. The talk will be titled “Evidence from child language acquisition for a parametric model of syntax”


In this talk I will present three case-studies, each based on longitudinal records of children’s spontaneous speech, that illustrate what happens when a child’s syntax undergoes a change. The first case-study, examining the acquisition of English verb-particle constructions, shows a near-total absence of commission errors. The second, examining prepositional questions in the speech of children acquiring English or Spanish, shows (first) that children may go as long as 9 months producing both direct-object questions and declaratives with prepositional phrases, before they even attempt to ask a prepositional question; and (second) that at some point, abruptly, children begin producing prepositional questions that are correctly formed for the target language. The third case study shows that in children acquiring English, the onset of verb-particle combinations occurs almost exactly when that child begins producing novel noun-noun compounds. I will argue that these findings, taken together, strongly favor a parametric approach to cross-linguistic variation in syntax. I will argue further that the findings have implications for the format of parameters, and for the process by which children set them.

Information on how to attend the talk virtually can be found here.