Rethinking the Syntactic Burst in Young Children

  • Christophe Parisse
Part of the Theory and Applications of Natural Language Processing book series (NLP)


Recent proposals about children’s first language acquisition have stressed usage-based acquisition and suggest that children have no language specific innate knowledge but instead use general cognitive abilities, such as perception, memory, and analogical processing, to acquire their mother tongue. These proposals do not, however, account for one argument raised by proponents of innate grammar approaches, which is the speed and correctness of children’s language acquisition, which could be described as a syntactic burst usually occurring around age two to three. In this chapter, a testing procedure is proposed to demonstrate that the acquisition of usage-based and fixed-form patterns can account for this syntactic burst. The analysis is conducted with the large Manchester corpus from the CHILDES database. It is demonstrated that fixed-form patterns extracted from child input and used in their raw and unprocessed form can, if combined freely, account for the children’s subsequent language production. Results show that young children’s grammatical abilities (before age three) could result from simple mechanisms and that complex linguistic mastery does not need to be available early in the course of language development.


Word Order Language Acquisition Common Noun Exact Reconstruction Syntactic Knowledge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MoDyCo-INSERM, CNRSParis Ouest Nanterre La Défense UniversityNanterre cedexFrance

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