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The aim of this Special Issue is to bring together grammatical theorists and language acquisitionists on the topic of acceleration effects in multilingual children. We intend to include various languages and a wide range of grammatical phenomena studied in bi-, tri- or multilingual children showing positive effects in comparison to monolingual children. Both production as well as comprehension perspectives are welcome. Contributors are asked to describe the grammatical domain within the framework of generative theory and its impact in multilingual language acquisition.
In grammatical theory of the generative and minimalist tradition, the investigation of linguistic phenomena has advanced promising and inspiring results but recently abstracted away from empirical confirmation in language acquisition. The purpose of the volume is therefore to relate theoretical findings to language acquisition data. Parameter theory, for example, has offered interesting insights regarding macro- and micro-variation in language comparison and language acquisition (Kayne 2005, Biberauer et al. 2014, Tsimpli 2014). Rizzi (2014) proposes three types of parameters in order to reduce the numerosity and arbitrariness of the original parameters of Merge, Move, and Spell-Out. Cardinaletti’s (2014) work offers a convincing account of parameter theory in the cross-linguistic comparison of the syntax of subjects. These theoretical approaches need to be verified empirically against language acquisition contexts.
On the other hand, we wish to supplement empirical studies on multilingual language acquisition through substantial formal description, e.g., through an integration of acquisitional data into parameter theory. In the existing literature of language acquisition, different types of influence have been described in multilingual language acquisition, especially in bilingualism. Fernández Fuertes and Liceras (2010), Liceras et al. (2011) and Liceras and Fernández Fuertes (2019), for example, investigate facilitating cross-linguistic influence in the domains of copula omission and subject omission in English/Spanish bilingualism and discuss these effects in the light of grammar theory. Systematic research on tri- and multilingualism is still rare (e.g., Chevalier 2015, Arnaus Gil and Müller 2019) but further indicates positive effects of multilingualism (e.g., Arnaus Gil and Müller 2018), even though input quantity is notoriously reduced in multilinguals. One interesting question is therefore to ask for the minimally required input in multilingual children. With respect to production and comprehension, can unbalanced children be accelerated when they hardly produce (but understand) one of their languages (Bonnesen 2009)?
When it comes to the effects of acceleration and delay, research indicates that these two concepts are probably not diametrical opposites of each other: Is delay due to cross-linguistic influence and language combination whereas acceleration, less well studied than delay, figures as a general characteristic of multilinguals processing several languages irrespective of the languages involved and thus the particular grammatical systems (Patuto et al. 2011, Müller 2017, Arnaus Gil et al. 2018)? In this sense, acceleration effects may be independent of a specific language and of the language faculty as such (cf. Chomsky’s 2005 third factor along with UG and linguistic experience). Hulk and Müller (2000) show that delay occurs principally at the interfaces of, e.g., syntax and pragmatics. Does this entail that the domains of core grammar are generally prone to acceleration effects? Acceleration has been described for various language combinations and grammatical phenomena, such as determiner omission (Kupisch 2006), copula selection (Arnaus Gil 2013), gender marking (Hager 2014), null subjects, and post-verbal subjects (Patuto 2012, Jansen 2015) or verb placement (Repetto and Müller 2010, Schmeißer and Jansen 2016). These results need to be further explored and discussed with respect to grammar theory.
Tying together grammar theory and acquisition research, possible questions to be addressed include: How can we best capture the notion of acceleration? What are the grammatical domains of acceleration effects? Are grammatical domains which are typically accelerated part of narrow syntax? What are the corresponding parameters? More precisely, are acceleration effects linked to a specific grammatical phenomenon or to something else, for example, to parameter (hierarchy), to specific parameter values or to the duration of the acquisition stage? We invite contributions that address the topic of acceleration both from the perspective of the grammatical phenomenon itself as well as from grammar (parameter) theory.
Our tentative completion schedule is as follows:
Abstract submission deadline:15 June 2020 (400–450 words including bibliography)
Full manuscript deadline: 5 October 2020
Prof. Dr. Natascha Müller
Dr. Johanna Stahnke
- multilingual language acquisition
- grammar (parameter) theory