General programme, activity sheet

Friday 8 September, 2017

Plenary Lecture

What does preverbal knowledge of Subject-Verb agreement in French look like?

Speaker: Geraldine Legendre, Johns Hopkins University

Authors: Géraldine Legendre

Linguists investigating the early acquisition of syntax tend to exclusively examine sentential production, which at the earliest targets children around age 2 and older. As a result, we know very little, if anything, about what children below the age of 2, and in particular at the preverbal stage, may know, and what the nature of that syntactic knowledge may be. In this talk I will present experimental evidence from sensitivity to (un)grammatical Subject-Verb agreement from 14 to 24 months, and comprehension at 30 months in support of the view that children’s earliest knowledge of a most basic syntactic dependency is not static. Rather it follows a developmental path which points to evolving agreement representations, from surface phonological dependencies initially to abstract number feature-based representations 10 months later. In a series of listening preference experiments we show, in particular, that very young children display two cycles of shifting preferences for (un-)grammatical SV agreement between 14 to 24 months of age: at the earlier point within a cycle they show a preference for grammatical agreement, which then switches to a preference for ungrammatical agreement, a profile which has generally been interpreted as evidence of representations becoming more robust. We suggest that the existence of two cycles, on the other hand, points to the evolving content of the representations themselves. Confirming evidence comes from the fact that at 24 months, but not earlier, children display sensitivity to (un)grammatical SV agreement with conjoined subjects, which demonstrates an ability to compute that singular + singular = plural. And at 30 months, but not earlier, they show comprehension defined as an ability (measured by preferential looking and/or pointing) to map visually displayed stimuli onto auditory singular or plural SV agreement. Throughout, children demonstrate an early ability to generalize over representations of increasing abstractness.

16:40 - 18:40 / Workshop 3 - “Acquisition of Subject-Verb Agreement”

Other activities in 16:40 - 18:40 / Workshop 3 - “Acquisition of Subject-Verb Agreement”

Oral presentation

Processing of subject-verb agreement by children with cochlear implants

Speaker: Atty Schouwenaars, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg

Oral presentation

We Agreed to Disagree: Subject-Verb (Dis)Agreement Patterns in L2 English

Speaker: Lenka Garshol, Universitetet i Agder

Oral presentation

Do children obey the ban on non-finite verbs in V2? Evidence from early second language learners of German with and without SLI

Speaker: Petra Schulz, Goethe University Frankfurt
Speaker: Rabea Schwarze, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main


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