Abstract: In this chapter author explores that outline an empirical argument for innate syntax, using determiners as a case study. There are four reasons for the choice of determiners. Every model of acquisition includes the eventual presence of syntactic categories, including determiners, in the child’s grammar. Agreement on the end point avoids the objection that a given linguistics principle or structure is never part of a speaker’s grammar and thus needs no explanation and, a fortiori, needs no innate structure to account for its acquisition. Arguments will be focused on how the child gets to the end point, not on what the end point consists of. Determiners, unlike nouns and verbs, are less directly tied to reference. Determiners have a semantics and a pragmatics, but full knowledge of the pragmatics seems to appear after, rather than before, the syntax of determiners has argued convincingly that experiments that appear to show lack of syntactic knowledge actually instead show difficulty with semantics.
Home » Publications » Dr. Valian's Publications » Valian, V. (2013b). Determiners: An empirical argument for innateness. In M. Sanz, I. Laka, & M. Tanenhaus. (Eds.). Language down the garden path: The cognitive and biological basis for linguistic structure (Chapter 14, pp 272-279). New York: Oxford University Press.