Thematic Group 3 – DP Structure and Meaning

Leader: Roumyana Slabakova

Members: Jorge Gonzalez Alonso, Merete Anderssen, Fatih Bayram, Guro Busterud, Eirik Hvidsten, Isabel N. Jensen, Rachel Klassen, Nadine Kolb, Tanja Kupisch, Kjersti Faldet Listhaug, Natalia Mitrofanova, Jason Rothman, Marta Velnic, Marit Westergaard

Description: The advantage of this thematic proposal is that it brings together scholars of morphology, syntax, semantics with acquisition and attrition researchers, or the theoretical and applied analyses of an overarching linguistic property. Definiteness is one possible such sub-topic, but others could be pronominal reference, word order in the DP, morpheme status (bound or free), etc., according to the AcqVA group members’ interests. Larger-scale typological surveys could be profitably related to first, second and additional language acquisition and attrition. Analyses could go into specific linguistic features in such a way that linguistic complexity can be related with acquisition/attrition facts and language processing. I am thinking of this as the elaboration of a grid, or a large contingency table, where linguistic complexity and acquisition/attrition come and work together. The ultimate goal is to elaborate an algorithm of how features and their acquisition/attrition modify and depend on each other.

Just as an example, in the last AcqVA meeting I presented a view of definiteness as composed of two semantic features, familiarity and uniqueness. If the proposed thematic proposal is of interest to the group members, then this view of definiteness could be explored further. Typological studies will have to establish how these features are manifested in some languages of importance (e.g., Norwegian, Russian, German, etc.). These analyses will be intricately linked to how each of these (and possibly other) features/meanings are acquired by children learning these languages as native; how they are acquired as second and additional language features (modulo other factors), etc. The composite picture could be quite illuminating, since linguistic theory and acquisition/attrition are rarely brought to work together.

As a precursor of such an analysis linking typology and acquisition, the work of Wolfgang Dressler’s group in Vienna is a good example. This large-scale study (Laaha, Sabine and Steven Gillis (2007) (eds.): Typological perspectives on the acquisition of noun and verb morphology. Antwerp Papers in Linguistics 112. Antwerp: Antwerp University) established typological criteria for overtness, or complexity of inflectional morphology across languages. They divided languages in three big groups based on these criteria. Finally, they cross-checked first language acquisition of the three types of languages and came up with meaningful correlations. The innovative approach of this proposal is that more than one acquisition/attrition conditions will be associated with typology.