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Seeking Collaboration on Phonological Acquisition Experiments

Date Submitted: 11-Dec-2009
From: Aubrey Nunes
Subject: Seeking Collaboration on Phonological Acquisition Experiments
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Notice: Dear Linguists,

In 1996 I carried out an experiment in London measuring some asymmetries
in phonological acquisition, with results that supported my predictions,
but in a way which seems hard to explain other than by both Minimalist
architecture, and by a uniform Speech and Language Acquisition Device
(SLAD). (See Nunes, Speech and Language Therapy in Practice, (2006).) If
the results are not misleading, there is a particular situation, in which
the child is given an unusual phonological experience, making the SLAD
observable in a timescale of minutes rather than the obviously much longer
timescale of normal acquisition. This suggests acquisition by small steps
in relation to internally-structured parameters, rather than by big leaps,
as suggested by Parameter theory from the 1990s. But there is a new
factor, from contrastive studies on monozygotic twins, of a
hyper-sensitivity in psychological formation which the SLAD hypothesis
seems to display.

If there is a hyper-sensitive SLAD, the same sort of effects should apply
in any dialect/language where any differences are reducible to
language-specificities, such as variations in the phonological word and
syllable structure, in underlying and surface properties of the phonetic
melody and prosody, and in the relations between these things. So a
replication or at least an attempted replication could be done anywhere,
with any language or variety.

The testing that I have in mind is with children, including those
developing normally and those with developmental issues, taking the 1996 protocol as a
point of departure and updating it to reflect relevant linguistic

Would anyone be interested in collaborating in experimentation designed to
test one or more of the predictions outlined here, some set out in more
detail in the reference above and elsewhere, concerning the hypersensitivity, the roles
of coronality, markedness, left to right headedness, and the phonological
exclusivity of the last?

At one level, there is an obvious funding pre-requisite. At another, this
experimentation could be in the context of a degree. But the first step is
to establish whether there is an interest.

Yours sincerely,

Aubrey Nunes