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GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory

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  1. GRS LX 700Language Acquisition andLinguistic Theory Week 10.The Trouble With Principle B

  2. Binding Theory • Binding TheoryConstraints on assignment of reference. • Reflexives (himself, herself, themselves, …) • Pronouns (he, she, they, him, her, …) • Names (inherent reference)

  3. Binding Theory • Principle AA reflexive (herself) must be bound within its governing category. • A binds B iff • A and B are coindexed, • A c-commands B. • Governing category ≈ IP or DP. • Mary saw herself in the mirror. • Mary said John saw herself in the window. • John stole [Mary’s pictures of herself]. • Mary stole [John’s pictures of herself].

  4. Binding Theory • Principle BA pronoun (her) must be free (=not bound) within its governing category. • Mary saw herin the mirror. • Mary said John saw her in the window. • John stole [Mary’s pictures of her]. • Mary stole [John’s pictures of her]. • Governing category ≈ IP or DP.

  5. Binding Theory • Principle BA pronoun (her) must be free (=not bound) within its governing category. • A pronoun can be bound • Accidentally (by reference) • John2 said he2 eats fish. • By a quantifier • Every boy2 said he2 eats fish.

  6. Binding Theory • Principle CA name/r-expression (Mary) must be free (altogether). • She saw Maryin the mirror. • She said John saw Maryin the window. • Mary stole [his pictures of John]. • He stole [her pictures of John]. • He said that Mary believes Sue stole my pictures of John.

  7. The trouble with acquiring constraints on meaning • Every bear is washing her face. • Bunch of bears washing Goldilocks’ face. • Bunch of bears cleaning their own faces. • Every bear is washing her. • Bunch of bears washing Goldilocks’ face. • Based on what evidence would kids conclude that the second context is not described by the second sentence?

  8. Ordering • In many cases, it might look like the results from Binding Theory are just about order—but for adults, there’s more to it. Binding Theory is abstract, about structure. • He said that Mickey won. • Mickey said that he won. • Before he went to school, Mickey ate a sandwich. • No c-command, no problem.

  9. Binding Theory • The principles of Binding Theory seem to be universal, represented in all languages. • They prohibit certain interpretations (that is, are unlearnable from positive evidence) • The principles of Binding Theory are part of Universal Grammar, not learned.

  10. Binding Theory • Yet… Experiments seem have shown that sentences ruled out by Binding Theory seem to be accepted by kids. • Do kids take a while to learn Binding Theory (even supposing it is learnable)? • When do they know it?

  11. C. Chomsky (1969) • Tested Principle C with kids and proposed that kids go through three stages: • Stage 1. • Coreference is unconstrained. • Stage 2. • Linear order strategy for pronominalization (linear order; antecedent must precede pronoun) • Stage 3. • Principle C is obeyed.

  12. C. Chomsky (1969) • “He found out that Mickey won the race.” • “Who found out?” • Kid points to someone, maybe Mickey. • “After he found out, Mickey left.” • “Pluto thinks he knows everything.” • Stage 2: Some kids never picked Mickey. • Is backward pronominalization disallowed in these kids’ grammars?

  13. Linear order strategy • Do kids go through a stage where they have a strategy for pronouns instead of Binding Theory? • Lust (1981): When asked to repeat, kids repeated forward pronominalizations much more accurately than redundant (name…name) sequences or backwards pronominalizations.

  14. Linear order strategy • But this doesn’t tell us that there aren’t grammatical principles governing their use of pronouns and/or reflexives. • If it tells us anything, it only tells us that, of the grammatical options, forward pronominalization is preferred.

  15. “Preference parameter”? • Lust in fact elevates this to the status of a parameter: head-final languages prefer backwards pronominalization, head-initial languages prefer forwards pronominalization. • Lust claimed there was a difference in preference between English and Japanese; O’Grady failed to replicate the difference between English and Korean. • This is not a good parameter anyway. Languages do not differ in what they allow, just in how much they like a type of sentence.

  16. Truth Value Judgment • One way we can get a judgment (and not a preference) is with the truth value judgment task. Another advantage to the TVJ task is that it is not very cognitively taxing. • Reminder of the TVJ task: • Show the kid a little story. • A puppet says “I know what happened… X”. • At which point the kid either feeds the puppet a cookie or rag, depending on whether the puppet told the truth.

  17. Crain & McKee (1985) • Crain & McKee (1985) tried again with Principle C, this time with a TVJ task, and found nothing particularly non-adult about kids’ use of Principle C. Not 100-0, but definitely systematic. • When hei was playing guitar, Pinocchioi was dancing. (73% yes; mean age 4;2) • When hei was playing guitar, Pinocchioj was dancing. (81% yes) • *Hei washes Goofyi. (88% no)

  18. Principle C • Results about Principle C have been rather all over the map, but probably the appropriate synthesis of what’s out there is: • Kids know and obey the constraints of Principle C on their interpretations (from 3 or so). • Application of this knowledge in an experimental setting is highly dependent on the demands of the task and the context.

  19. Onset of Binding Theory? • If Binding Theory is part of UG, not learned, we’d expect that kids start out already knowing it. (or maybe it matures, but let’s hold off on that possibility until we need it) • Caveat: Of course, the kids need to know what is a pronoun and what is a reflexive before they can use Binding Theory. • However: We expect to find that the first available evidence should show that kids know Binding Theory.

  20. Onset of Binding Theory • But it doesn’t seem to turn out as we’d expect… • Several experiments seem to show that while kids show early evidence of knowing Principle A/C, they (appear to) consistently fail to observe Principle B—even up to (and beyond) 6 years old.

  21. Chien & Wexler (1990) • Explored the question of whether kids know Principles A and B from the outset or not. • First three experiments show: • Kids correctly require local antecedents for reflexives (Principle A) early on • Kids are significantly delayed in requiring non-local antecedents for pronouns (Principle B).

  22. C&W90: Experiment I • Tests Principle A (reflexives require a local antecedent) by providing sentences with two possible antecedents (one local, one not). “Simon says” act-out task. (156 kids, mean 4;6) • Kitty says that Sarah should point to herself. • Kitty says that Sarah should point to her. • Kitty says that Adam should point to her.

  23. C&W90: Experiment II • Checking the effects of finiteness and also setting up a gender control on reflexives. (142 kids; mean 4;5) • Kitty wants Sarah to point to herself. • Kitty wants Sarah to point to her. • Kitty wants Adam to point to her • Snoopy wants Sarah to point to herself.

  24. C&W90: Experiment III • Increased the number of conditions to test for pragmatic strategies and to replicate the results with a different task. (174 kids; mean 4;5) • (Previous task was “Simon [Snoopy/Kitty] says…”, this task was “Party game” which involved giving objects to people/puppets sitting at a table. This might, if anything, introduce a self-bias, because it’s fun to get toys. Kitty says that Sarah should give herself a car.).

  25. C&W90: Experiments I-II • Kids from 2.5 to 6 showed a steady increase (from about 13% correct to about 90%) in requiring herself to take a local antecedent. • G1=2;6-3;0 • G2=3;0-3;6 • … • G8=6;0-6;6

  26. C&W90: Experiments I-II • For some reason, kids seemed to perform better with nonfinite verbs (want); C&W have no particular explanation.

  27. C&W90: Appendix Ireflexives

  28. C&W90: Experiments I-II • Kids showed no significant development in requiring her to take a non-local antecedent (about 75% across the board). Most of the errors treated her as taking a local antecedent. • Kitty says that Sarah should point to her.

  29. C&W90: Appendix Ipronouns

  30. C&W90: Experiments I-II • Gender cues for non-local pronoun brought kids’ performance up to near-perfect. Had little effect on reflexives.

  31. C&W90: Experiment III results • Previous results replicated for new task. • Young kids did better (operated at chance) for Principle A (meaning that they don’t have a systematic non-local coreference principle they are following—cf. Experiment I result showing them at 13% correct). Who knows what it was, but it wasn’t grammar.

  32. C&W90: Possibilities so far… • Kids have to learn Principle B it takes a while. • But how on positive evidence alone? • Her is harder to learn than herself. • But kids use pronouns first (I saw him sentences indicate that they’re pronouns). • Principle B matures (constraints enforcing coreference before those prohibiting coreference?) • *UG-constrained maturation • “Principle B errors” aren’t Principle B problems.

  33. Chien & Wexler (1990) • Kids do know the difference between pronouns and reflexives (they aren’t treating them all as reflexives). • E.g., I saw him, *I saw himself.Kids say sentences like I saw him often enough, but they do seem to know that reflexives need a local antecedent.

  34. So what’s wrongwith Principle B? • Chien & Wexler (1990): Nothing is wrong with Principle B. Kids know and respect Principle B all along. • Consider what adults can do: • That must be John—or at least he looks an awful lot like him. • So do adults violate Principle B?

  35. Coindexation • Principle B says that coindexation between a pronoun and an antecedent is prohibited if the antecedent is too close. • Assuming adults obey this, that previous sentence must have been: • That must be John—or at least heilooks an awful lot like himj. • …where i and j are accidentally coreferent.

  36. Coindexation • If two noun phrases share the same index, they necessarily share the same referent. Coindexation implies coreference. • If two noun phrases do not share the same index, does this mean they can’t share the same referent? Does contraindexation imply non-coreference?

  37. Coindexation • The idea behind the Chien & Wexler account of the Principle B “delay” is that adults know the pragmatic Principle P, but kids are unable to use it right away. • Principle PContraindexed NPs are non-coreferential unless the context explicitly forces coreference.

  38. Coindexation • So, when a kid agrees that… • Mama Bear is pointing to her. • …meaning ‘Mama Bear is pointing to herself’, what the kid really agreed to was • Mama Beari is pointing to herj. • …ok by Principle B, but violating Principle P (by allowing i and j both to refer to Mama Bear).

  39. How could we ever tell? • But how can we tell if it’s Principle P that kids don’t obey and not Principle B, given that they both seem to allow Mama bear is pointing to her ‘…herself’? • Answer: Principle B also governs the use of bound pronouns, which Principle P has nothing to say about.

  40. Bound pronouns • A bound pronoun is like his in: • Every boyi is looking for hisi keys. • …and these are subject to Principle B, but they do not have a fixed referent, so accidental coreference is not an option here. • *Every boyi admires himi.

  41. Prediction • So, if found that kids accept • Mama bear points to her (her = Mama Bear) • …but refused to accept • Every beari points to heri. (her = each bear in turn) • …then kids know Principle B (and what they lack is probably Principle P).

  42. Chien & Wexler (1990) • First three experiments established that Principle B appears to be delayed with respect to Principle A. • Fourth experiment establishes that kids obey Principle B when coindexation would be forced by a bound variable interpretation.

  43. C&W90: Experiment IV • Principle B (but not Principle P) applies also to bound pronouns—if the kids know Principle B and not Principle P, we expect to see kids getting bound pronouns right (unlike referring pronouns, as previous three experiments showed).

  44. C&W90: Experiment IV items • Name-reflexive • Is Mama Bear touching herself? • Name-pronoun • Is Mama Bear touching her?

  45. C&W90: Experiment IV items • Quantifier-reflexive • Is every bear touching herself? • Quantifier-pronoun • Is every bear touching her?

  46. C&W90: Experiment IV controls • Name-name • Is Mama Bear pointing to Goldilocks? • Every-name • Is every bear pointing to Goldilocks? • All-name • Are all of the bears pointing to Goldilocks?

  47. C&W90: Experiment IVcontrol results • Kids under 5 did poorly on the mismatch (“no”) condition for every and all; they did less poorly on the mismatch condition for names. • Kids under 5 haven’t quite mastered quantifiers. (So we can’t test Principle B with them) (with this task) • G1=<4(48); G2=4-5(45); G3=5-6(44);G4=6-7(40)

  48. C&W90: Experiment IVreflexive results • Kids over 5 did near-perfect with respect to Principle A (name-reflexive and quantifier-reflexive match/mismatch).

  49. C&W90: Experiment IVname-pronoun • Kids did badly on the name-pronoun mismatch cases, steadily rising from about 70% wrong to about 25% wrong between 4 and 7.

  50. C&W90: Experiment IVquantifier-pronoun • Under 5, kids were operating around chance (they don’t understand how quantifiers work yet) • Over 5, they were at 80% correct and above—in particular, better than on the name-pronoun condition; they seem to know Principle B. • (G3 went from 50% to 80%)