City University of Hong Kong Dep
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Nature of Early Child Grammar:
A Perspective from
Acquisition of Mandarin
Prof. Yang Xiaolu
The Department of Foreign Languages, Tsinghua University
Date: 28 August 2007, Wednesday
Time: 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone),Academic Building,CityU
A heated debate over the nature of language acquisition is whether child grammar is rule-governed or usage-based. The rule-governed approaches to child grammar would assume the existence of innate linguistic rules (e.g. in the form of UG) and argue that the superficially simple and sometimes erroneous sentences in early language development are in fact constrained by rules.. The usage-based approaches to child grammar, on the other hand, deny the existence of innate linguistic rules and relate language development to development of general social-cognitive capacities. Such approaches would argue that early child language is simple and limited, driven by the input that the child is exposed to. In this talk, we will first review some findings that lend support to the two approaches. We will then report findings from our recent studies on early grammatical development of Mandarin. We will argue that early multi-word combinations produced by Mandarin-speaking children are quite complex and productive, exhibiting behavior that can hardly be accounted for by the usage-based view of child grammar.
Yang Xiaolu is Associate Professor of the Dept. of Foreign Languages of Tsinghua University and is also affiliated to the Centre for Psychology and Cognitive Science of Tsinghua University. She got her M.Phil and Ph.D. in linguistics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has joined the faculty of the Dept. of Foreign Languages of Tsinghua University since 2000. In 2005, she studied in the Wexler Lab in the Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences of MIT as a visiting scholar. Dr.Yang's major research focus is on language acquisition and language and cognition. She is interested in the relationship between language and cognitive development, and the interaction of universal linguistic properties and language-specific properties in language acquisition. The specific topics she has worked on include the null subject parameter in L2 acquisition, L1 acquisition of focus particles CAI and JIU in Chinese, and the acquisition of BA and DE in Chinese. Currently she is the principal investigator of a China National Social Sciences Foundation project on early grammatical development of Chinese.