Fall 2006

LING 822: Seminar on Language Acquisition

Root Infinitives

M 12:30-3:00 3031 Dole

Instructor: Clifton Pye (pyersqr at ku dot edu)

Office Hours M 10:30-11:30 and W 10:30-11:30 or by appointment

      This seminar will examine some of the literature on root infinitives from a comparative perspective with a special focus on the Agreement-Tense Omission Model of Wexler and Schütze. The root infinitive hypothesis postulates that children optionally produce sentences with nonfinite verb forms. The seminar will examine the definitions of finiteness and its realization in cross-linguistic contexts. We will use acquisition data from European and non-European languages to examine the claims for the hypothesis. The goal of the seminar is to acquaint students with recent studies of the acquisition of finiteness.

      The seminar will consist of class discussions of the assigned readings and their implications for the acquisition of finiteness. Each student will be responsible for leading the class discussion on a particular reading. In addition to the reading and class discussion each student is required to write a paper discussing some aspect of root infinitives. The paper might examine, for example, the relation between finiteness and argument expression in a specific language. The seminar will be organized as a workshop. Students will present a preliminary version of their paper in class, and refine their concepts through class discussion. They will then be asked to present a final revision of their paper that incorporates suggestions from the class and the instructor.

Text: Cornelia Hamann. 2002. From Syntax to Discourse. Kluwer.



Jan. 17

Introduction to Null Subjects and Root Infinitives


Jan. 24

Rizzi, L. 1993/1994. Some notes on linguistic theory and language development: The case of root infinitives. Language Acquisition 3.371-393.


Jan. 31

Wexler, K. 1998. Very early parameter setting and the unique checking constraint: A new explanation of the optional infinitive stage. Lingua 106.23-79.


Feb. 7

Hamann, Chap. 2: The Acquisition of the Pronominal System in French


Feb. 14

Hamann, Chap. 3: The Binding Principles and Acquisition Research


Feb. 21

Hamann, Chap. 4: Romance Clitics and Binding


Feb. 28

Hamann, Chap. 5: Two Experiments on Binding Effects with French Clitic Pronouns


Mar. 7

Hamann, Chap. 6: Children's Null Subjects and Infinitives


Mar. 14

Hamann, Chap. 7: Theoretical Approaches to Infinitives and Null Subjects


Mar. 21



Mar. 28

Hamann, Chap. 8: Empirical Data and the Evaluation of the Approaches


Apr. 4

Hamann, Chap. 9: Wh-Questions: Infinitives, Null Subjects and the Problem of Interpretation


Apr. 11

Hamann, Chap. 10: Other Areas of Investigation: Negation and Late Argument Drop


Apr. 18

Hamann, Chap. 11: Discourse Anchorage and the CP


Apr. 25

Hamann, Chap. 12: Child Language: From Syntax to Discourse



Project presentations