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date: 02 December 2022

The Acquisition of Syntax in the Romance Languages (in Mono- vs. Multilingual Children)locked

The Acquisition of Syntax in the Romance Languages (in Mono- vs. Multilingual Children)locked

  • Natascha MüllerNatascha MüllerBergische Universität Wuppertal Fakultät für Geistes- und Kulturwissenschaften

Summary

Children do not speak like adults. This observation is not trivial in a framework in which language acquisition is framed as a process of parameter setting on the basis of universal principles and the child’s input. The present chapter summarizes two main views of language acquisition in this framework, maturation and continuity, with special reference to the acquisition of Romance languages. The debate is difficult to settle on the basis of monolingual data. The comparison of different monolingual populations has the inconvenience that factors like age, cognitive abilities, and abilities related to the performance system come into play in studies that are only interested in the linguistic differences. The multilingual child constitutes an individual with different grammars, but with the same prerequisites if the genetic endowment is concerned, with one performance system and one cognitive system, all facts which can help to settle the debate. Acquisitionists have shown that some routes to adult grammars are shorter and simpler than others. Some of the definitions of complexity, as presented in the literature, will be summarized in relation to the acquisition of grammatical domains in monolingual children. Since complexity can lead to cross-linguistic influence in the multilingual child, the study of this population, again, helps to prove the different definitions of complexity. If it is really the case that grammatical systems are not equally complex, this might also be related to the fact that linguistic variation is best described by parameters which differ in nature—some of which are core parameters (‘deep parameters’), others sub-case parameters—as well as by peripheral variation. Again, parameters which have different settings in the adult language are particularly interesting to study in the multilingual child. Language acquisition is embedded into the child’s linguistic experience, or input. Interestingly, a multilingual child’s input is divided by two, three, or more, in comparison to that of the monolingual child. Arguably, the study of children who acquire more than one language from birth is particularly apt to reveal those grammatical domains which are acquired with ease, even with much less input than the monolingual child receives. Very tentatively, the present article addresses the reduction of intralinguistic variation via child-directed speech and thus opens up a discussion of the relevance of the quality of input in the framework of parameter setting.

Subjects

  • Applied Linguistics
  • Syntax

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