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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Conference Information

Full Title: Three Factors and Beyond: The Socio-Syntax of (A)typical Language Acquisition and Development

Short Title: 3FB
Location: Nicosia, Cyprus
Start Date: 16-Nov-2012 - 18-Nov-2012
Contact: Kleanthes Grohmann
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL: http://www.research.biolinguistics.eu/CAT/events/3FB.html
Meeting Description: Recent formulations of the biolinguistic program integrate ‘three factors of language design’ (Chomsky 2005: 6):

(1) Genetic endowment, ‘which interprets part of the environment as linguistic experience […] and which determines the general course of the development of the language faculty’.

(2) Experience, ‘which leads to variation, within a fairly narrow range, as in the case of other subsystems of the human capacity and the organism generally’.

(3) Principles not specific to the faculty of language, such as ‘principles of data analysis that might be used in language acquisition and other domains’ and ‘principles of structural architecture and developmental constraints […] including principles of efficient computation’.

3FB, which will be held in Nicosia and organized by the Cyprus Acquisition Team (http://www.research.biolinguistics.eu/CAT), aims to investigate these factors in the domain of language development (see also Yang 2010, among others). This can be done from conceptual-theoretical, but also from psycho-neurolinguistic perspectives (e.g., Ullman 2004, 2008, 2012). As the sub-title of the event suggests, such investigations may go beyond the three factors and include the role of socio-syntactic aspects (if these cannot be captured by any existing factor). This may involve variation in the input for language acquisition (e.g., Westergaard 2009a, b), relevance of code-mixing/switching on language development (e.g., Tsiplakou 2009), or gradience in grammar through syntactic variants existent within and affected by a dialect-standard continuum (e.g., Cornips 2006). The data to be considered may come from first, second, or bilingual acquisition in typically developing as well as atypically or impaired populations.


Chomsky, Noam (2005). Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36, 1-22.

Cornips, Leonie (2006). Intermediate syntactic variants in a dialect-standard speech repertoire and relative acceptability. In G. Fanselow, C. Féry, R. Vogel & M. Schlesewsky (eds.), Gradience in Grammar: Generative Perspectives, pp. 85-105. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tsiplakou, Stavroula (2009). Code‐switching and code‐mixing between related varieties: Establishing the blueprint. The International Journal of Humanities 6, 49-66.

Ullman, Michael T. (2004). Contributions of neural memory circuits to language: The declarative/procedural model. Cognition 92, 231-270.

Ullman, Michael T. (2008). The role of memory systems in disorders of language. In Brigitte Stemmer & Harry A. Whitaker (eds.), Handbook of the Neuroscience of Language. Oxford: Elsevier.

Ullman, Michael T. (2012). The declarative/procedural model. In Peter Robinson (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition. London: Routledge.

Yang, Charles D. (2010). Three factors in language variation. Lingua 120, 1160-1177.

Westergaard, Marit. (2009a). The Acquisition of Word Order: Micro-Cues, Information Structure and Economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Westergaard, Marit. (2009b). Usage-based vs. rule-based learning: The acquisition of word order in wh-Questions in English and Norwegian. Journal of Child Language 36, 1023-1051.

Invited Speakers:

Leonie Cornips (Meertens Institute)
Stavroula Tsiplakou (Open University Cyprus)
Michael Ullman (Georgetown University)
Marit Westergaard (University of Tromsø)
Linguistic Subfield: Language Acquisition; Neurolinguistics; Psycholinguistics; Sociolinguistics; Syntax
LL Issue: 23.3623

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