How do children avoid constructing an overly general grammar in the absence of feedback about what is not a sentence?
How do children avoid constructing an overly general grammar in the absence of feedback about what is not a sentence? Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 22
The theory that language acquisition is guided and constrained by inborn linguistic knowledge is assessed. Specifically, the "no negative evidence" view, the belief that linguistic theory should be restricted in such a way that the grammars it allows can be learned by children on the basis of positive evidence only, is explored. Child language data are cited in order to investigate influential innatist approaches to language acquisition. Baker's view that children are innately constrained in significant ways with respect to language acquisition is evaluated. Evidence indicates that children persistently make overgeneralizations of the sort that violate the constrained view of language acquisition. Since children eventually do develop correct adult grammar, they must have other mechanisms for cutting back on these overgeneralizations. Thus, any hypothesized constraints cannot be justified on grounds that without them the child would end up with overly general grammar. It is necessary to explicate the mechanisms by which children eliminate their tendency toward overgeneralization.