Aspects of a theory of language acquisition
This paper presents a hypothesis-testing theory of syntax acquisition. The first section presents our model. We claim that: (1) children learn a transformational grammar, including a set of phrase structure and transformational rules; (2) linguistic universals and Occam's razor constrain the initial hypothesis space available to the device; (3) hypotheses tested by the device consist of candidate phrase structure and transformational rules; (4) linguistic evidence confirms or disconfirms hypotheses. Specific examples of incorrect phrase structure and transformational hypotheses are presented. The second section briefly surveys other approaches to language acquisition – both syntactic and non-syntactic – and compares them to our model. In the third section, we address several methodological issues: (1) the relevance of linguistic theory to the model; (2) how the model is tested; (3) the domain of the theory.