An Approach to Language Acquisition

  • Lawrence Solan
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 1)


This essay is about the relationship between experience and language development. One of the goals of linguistic theory is to posit a set of innate restrictions on the possible hypotheses about the structure of his language that a child will consider. These restrictions constitute universal grammar. The claim of linguistic theory is that children will be constrained by universal grammar in their hypothesis formation, eliminating many logical possibilities, thereby facilitating the language acquisition process. The theory developed by linguists should be restrictive to the extent that it rules out and Orders possible hypotheses in such a way that it mimicks the child in this regard. A theory that is too restrictive, for instance, a theory that Claims that children could never make mistakes because all sentences are derived from a set of innate rules of grammar, will fail to account for a large corpus of easily observed data about the language acquisition process. On the other hand, a theory which is grounded solely in the child’s experience will also fail, in that it will be unable to account for various hypotheses that children make on the basis of no experience, and for children’s failure to make other hypotheses consistent with their experience.


Noun Phrase Relative Clause Word Order Language Acquisition Linguistic Universal 
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

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Solan

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