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New book on functional categories in learner language
Research on the spontaneous processes of both children learning their mother tongue and adults learning a second language has shown that early learner languages are based on lexical structures. At some point in acquisition this lexical-semantic system is given up in favor of a target-like functional category system. MPI researcher Christine Dimroth and Peter Jordens (VU Amsterdam) have just published a book on functional categories in learner language in November, 2009.
Dec 29, 2009
Initially, learner utterances can be accounted for in terms of a language system that is relatively simple. Utterance structure is determined by a grammar which consists of lexical structures that are constrained by, for example, semantic principles such as 'Agent first' and a pragmatic principle such as 'Topic first'.
At some point in acquisition this lexical-semantic system is given up in favour of a target-like system with morpho-syntactic features to express the functional properties of finiteness, topicality, the determiner system, etc. Insights into how this process evolves may also provide an answer to the question of why it takes place. Within this functional perspective on language acquisition, research focuses on questions such as the following.
What is the driving force behind the process that causes learners to give up a simple lexical-semantic system in favour of a morpho-syntactic functional category system?
What is the added value of morpho-syntactic properties of inflection, word-order variation, definiteness and agreement?
- Why is it that in cases of specific language impairment it is mainly morpho-syntactic properties of the target language that are affected?
Functional Categories in Learner Language, Christine Dimroth & Peter Jordens. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 2009. 347pp.