Parametric variation in the acquisition of English as an additional language
One of the fundamental goals of a theory of grammar is to define precisely how a child acquires competence of the languages to which she is exposed. This study examines the syntactic development of twenty children acquiring English as an additional language. The framework adopted is the Parametric approach to Universal Grammar advanced by the Government-Binding theory.(Chomsky 1981). Within this theory, language acquisition is viewed as a process of setting the parameters of Universal Grammar at a value which corresponds with the linguistic data provided by the child's speech community. In essence, the principles and parameters of Universal Grammar constrain the possible hypotheses a child may form on the structure of the language she is acquiring. The parameters investigated in this study are the Head and Determiner [Specifier] parameter, the WH-movement parameter and the Pro-drop parameter. It will be observed that the children's grammar differs from the corresponding adult grammar in English with respect to the value selected for each of the four parameters under analysis. In addition, the empirical results of the investigation reveal that the structure of children's sentences, though frequently ill-formed in English, are consistently well within the limits defined by principles of Universal Grammar. It is significant to note that some of the utterances collected exhibited the structure of existing human lan guages, and in particular, the grammar of Kikamba. The central claim of this study is that some of the properties of syntactic development are effects of the setting (mis-setting)of the parameters of Universal Grammar. This investigation on the structure of children's -intermediate grammars further provides empirical support for the theory of Markedness as it relates to Syntactic development.