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REVISITING TRADITIONAL ASSUMPTIONS IN PRINCIPLES-AND-PARAMETERS THEORY

Abstract

Empirical data from languages as diverse as French, Arabic, Dutch and Brazilian Portuguese lead us to re-examine two traditional assumptions of principles-and-parameters theory.  The first one is that most parameters are binary-valued as opposed to multi-valued. The second one is that parameter values are mutually exclusive, as opposed to mutually inclusive; i.e., languages must select one of two possible options. It is suggested that some languages may allow multiple-switch settings: both settings are used for different constructions, in the case of syntactic parameters, or different words, in the case of phonological parameters. These languages raise interesting questions from a learnability perspective in both first and second language acquisition. It is briefly suggested that these superset languages may not create insurmountable differences. In fact, empirical data show that second language learners do entertain both setting of a parameter at once.

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Ayoun, D., (1998) “REVISITING TRADITIONAL ASSUMPTIONS IN PRINCIPLES-AND-PARAMETERS THEORY”, Journal of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching 6, p.61-79.

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Dalila Ayoun (University of Arizona)

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