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CLLEAR seminar: “Linguistic variation in monolingual and bilingual contexts: The size of rules & the role of economy, complexity and frequency”

The next Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR) seminar will take place on Wednesday 29 October 2014 from 5:00-6:30pm in Lecture Theatre C, Avenue Campus. The talk is entitled “Linguistic variation in monolingual and bilingual contexts: The size of rules & the role of economy, complexity and frequency” and will be delivered by Professor Marit Westergaard from UiT The Arctic University of Norway. All welcome!

Here is the abstract for this session:
In this talk I will first sketch a research program that considers variation in the primary linguistic data that children are exposed to, mainly focusing on Norwegian and English. On close inspection, it turns out that children hear a lot of variation in the input, e.g. V2/non-V2, different subject positions, different object positions, etc. Our general findings are that children make fine distinctions in syntax and information structure from early on, which has led to a model of acquisition based on micro-cues. The non-target-consistent production attested is mainly due to lack of syntactic movement, generally accounted for in terms of economy.

I then turn to a discussion of word order variation in possessive constructions in Norwegian, where the possessor may be pre- or post-nominal (e.g. min bil ‘my car’ vs. bilen min ‘car-def my’). Findings from monolingual children, bilingual Norwegian-English children and Norwegian heritage speakers in the US are discussed in terms of factors such as frequency, complexity and structural similarity. The findings are similar to those that have been attested in the clausal domain, and the general conclusion is that complexity is the most important factor in acquisition, while high frequency may protect against attrition. A comparison of the production of double definiteness in Norwegian (e.g. den store bil-en ‘the big car-def’) in the three populations points in the same direction.

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