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Review of  Variation and Universals in Biolinguistics

Reviewer: 'Judit Gervain' ['Judit Gervain'] Judit Gervain
Book Title: Variation and Universals in Biolinguistics
Book Author: Lyle Jenkins
Publisher: Elsevier Ltd
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): Japanese
Book Announcement: 16.2233

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Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 18:09:34 +0200
From: Judit Gervain <>
Subject: Variation and Universals in Biolinguistics

EDITOR: Jenkins, Lyle
TITLE: Variation and Universals in Biolinguistics
SERIES: North-Holland Linguistic Series, Linguistic Variations 62
PUBLISHER: Elsevier Ltd.
YEAR: 2004

Judit Gervain, Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, Scuola Internazionale di
Studi Avanzati, Trieste, Italy

1. Introduction
Had Eric Lenneberg written his seminal book "Biological Foundations of
Language" (1967) today, he most probably would have written something
quite similar to the present volume. As the very frequent references
suggest, the authors of this collective volume themselves were also very
well aware of the Lennebergian heritage. Although many of Lenneberg's
original proposals have been refuted or reformulated since, the general
spirit of his ideas still continue to shape the way we think about the
biological aspects of language. His ideas gave rise to what has become
known today as the biolinguistic enterprise.

The volume offers a very fortunate selection of papers from the
biolinguistic field, succeeding in blending general and easily accessible
introductions to more biological or formal research areas that linguists
and psychologists are less familiar with, such as the correlation between
genetic and linguistic variation, or the state of the art in the study of
human evolution, with in-depth analyses and detailed empirical reviews of
controversial issues, such as the exact nature of the deficit underlying
Specific Language Impairment (SLI), the mechanisms involved in language
acquisition or the evolution of language. Many of the papers offer a
rethinking of some of the received views in the domain. A common
underlying theme running through all the articles is the attempt to
achieve a complex understanding of the key issues, with an eye towards an
ultimate unification with the biological sciences. This genuinely
multidisciplinary approach gives a unique appeal to the volume.

2. What form should linguistic theory take?
Most of the papers explicitly or implicitly assume, as their theoretical
background, the Principles and Parameters (P&P) model as most recently
reformulated in the Minimalist Program (MP; Chomsky 1995). This model
represents a radical attempt at creating a "minimal" theory of grammar,
i.e. the most parsimonious possible, based on the underlying assumption
that syntactic computations, i.e. the core of language, is a nearly
perfect design to mediate between meaning and sound. Most of its
properties are imposed by these two external systems, and syntax itself
introduces as little of its own material as possible. This intuition, as
it will become clear, has paved the way for a broad range of novel
investigations, especially into the evolution of language. Therefore, it
is crucial to understand the motivations behind and the evidence in favor
of it.

This is precisely what Noam Chomsky's contribution "Language and Mind:
Current Thoughts on Ancient Problems" does. First, in a historical
perspective, he shows how the generative enterprise has proceeded from the
empirical descriptions of particular constructions in particular languages
to a more general, abstract and explanatory theory, the MP, ridding itself
of unnecessary formal machinery. Although the idea of a nearly perfect
syntax is, as Chomsky himself concedes, surprising, he also claims that
the theory has not lost in empirical adequacy in the attempt, which
constitutes a reason to prefer it over the previous, more redundant, less
parsimonious models. This, however, is not uncontroversial. Pinker and
Jackendoff (2005), for instance, has recently argued to the contrary,
citing a certain range of phenomena that remained unaccounted for in the
new framework. Ultimately, it is, of course, an empirical question whether
the MP will succeed in equaling the former theories in empirical scope.

One relevant issue in this regard is what precise form the correct model
should take. Building on his previous work, Richard Kayne sets out, in his
present article "Antisymmetry and Japanese", to provide further empirical
support for his "antisymmetry thesis". His main proposal (Kayne 1994) has
been that contrary to apparent cross-linguistic variation, word order is
underlyingly identical in all languages, conforming to the basic SVO (in
more technical terms Specifier-Head-Complement) order. The reason why some
languages exhibit surface orders different from this, e.g. SOV, is because
several displacement operations apply to the underlying order in their
syntactic derivations. If true, this surprising and empirically not
uncontroversial claim provides substantial support to the idea that basic
syntax is universal and conforms to the needs of the interfaces, in this
case to the needs of the conceptual-intentional interface by reflecting
the underlying order of elementary predication. Therefore, in his current
contribution, Kayne investigates word order phenomena in Japanese, the
paradigmatic example of a language that shows SOV order on the surface,
and convincingly argues, by deriving Noun-Postposition and Subordinate
clause-Complementizer orders through movement, that word order in these
constructions is epiphenomenal.

3. Language acquisition from a biological perspective
The issue of distinguishing linguistic universals from cross-
linguistically varying properties bears direct relevance to the problem of
language acquisition. One of the most fundamental commitments, indeed one
of the original motivations, of the generative enterprise has been the
claim that language cannot be learnt exclusively from the input (the
logical problem of induction, also known as the argument from the poverty
of the stimulus), therefore humans must possess a language learning device
with a considerable amount of linguistic knowledge already hard-wired in
it. This approach has been theoretically formulated in the P&P model,
according to which the principles are universal and need no further
specification during acquisition, while parameters define (binary)
choices, the adequate values of which the learner has to set to model the
target grammar. It has been proposed (e.g. Pinker 1984, Gibson and Wexler
1994) that the exact mechanism by which parameters are set can be thought
of as some kind direct triggering from the input, in which certain cues
direct the learner's choice. As a corollary, it has been argued that
triggering is fast and effortless, therefore parameters are set very early
on (Wexler 1998). Under this view, young children's syntactic errors are
attributable to maturational or "performance" factors (e.g. memory
limitations in the case of long or complicated sentences etc.).

In the current volume, three articles address the issue of language
acquisition, two of them, Wexler and Avrutin, proposing accounts that are
compatible with this classical view, while the third one by Yang
challenges some of the traditional assumptions from a
computational/statistical point of view. In the chapter
entitled "Lenneberg's Dream", Ken Wexler offers a comprehensive overview
of the theoretical arguments and the empirical evidence for his Optional
Infinitive (OI) stage theory. The original proposal derives from the
observation that children's early production contains both finite,
inflected adult-like verbal morphology and infinitival, non-inflected
forms that alternate in the same sentential environments. Initially, the
infinitival forms are dominant, but become less and less frequent with
time. When inflected morphology appears, it is always grammatical; it is
never used when an infinitive or a participle would be required, and the
different inflected forms never replace each other randomly or
ungrammatically. All these facts taken together imply, argues Wexler, that
in the developmental phase that he calls the Optional Infinitive stage,
children do possess the relevant grammatical knowledge, otherwise they
would use the inflected forms randomly. However, they have difficulties
exhibiting this knowledge in constructions that require the application of
certain grammatical operations (movement/feature checking) twice. In
English, this is precisely what is required to get inflection right. As a
good control case for the hypothesis, Wexler presents data from languages
such as Italian and Spanish, in which the same operation is not required
to apply twice, only once. As the hypothesis predicts, in these languages,
children never fail to mark the main verb of a sentence for the correct
person and tense inflection. The constraint that children cannot perform
certain operations twice, while adults can, can thus be seen as a
maturational, i.e. performance limitation on an otherwise adult-like
grammar. In this respect, then, Wexler's OI theory follows the traditional
path of attributing children's errors to extra-linguistic factors.
However, the scope of his hypothesis is enlarged by encompassing data from
behavioral genetics and language pathologies. In accordance with the idea
that the limitations underlying the OI stage are genetically determined
maturational constraints, Wexler and colleagues found that the difference
in the time of onset and the duration of the OI stage is only 3 weeks in
monozygotic twins, as compared to 13 weeks in dizygotic ones. Moreover,
investigating the errors English- and Dutch-speaking children with SLI
make, Wexler observed that their patterns are very similar to those of
normally developing children in the OI stage, only with poorer overall
performance. Therefore, Wexler argues that in SLI children, the OI stage
is maintained for a much longer period of time, sometimes not even fully
obviated in adulthood. Under this view, then, the SLI grammar is claimed
to be intact, and what is affected is the performance system.

A similar line of reasoning comparing the linguistic abilities of normally
developing children and language pathology underlies Sergey Avrutin's
contribution, entitled "Beyond Narrow Syntax". Starting out from the
observation that young children interpret the use and distribution of
pronominal forms differently from adults, Avrutin argues that the behavior
of these referential elements (pronominals, anaphoric expressions, nouns
preceded by determiners, introducing individuals into the discourse, as
well as tense marking, introducing events into the discourse etc.) is
governed not by syntax, but by what he calls `discourse', and defines as
the interface between pure syntactic computation, i.e. narrow syntax and
the conceptual-intentional (C-I) system. One empirical motivation to
delegate referential elements to the C-I interface as opposed to syntax
proper is the existence, even in normal adult language, of special
registers such as `diary language' where the behavior of referential
elements and tense marking is different from normal usage, e.g. omissions
are possible in contexts were they are otherwise ungrammatical etc.
Therefore, even the fully mature language faculty allows for the
introduction of novel discourse entities through non-syntactic means.
Interestingly, as Avrutin notes, determiners, pronominals and tense
marking are precisely those grammatical elements that young children and
aphasic patients very frequently omit in their linguistic production.
Importantly, however, when they do employ them, their usage is
grammatical. Consequently, Avrutin conjectures that the narrow syntax of
language learners and aphasics is intact, but when the production of a
certain structure becomes too resource-intensive, their computational
system breaks down, and the discursive means of expression take over,
giving rise, as in adult special registers, to characteristic omission
patterns. Avrutin's model is another example of a theory that takes errors
to be the symptoms of performance limitations on an otherwise normal

This view is challenged from a formal perspective in the chapter
entitled "Toward a theory of language growth" by Charles Yang. He argues
that if the triggering/parameter-setting view of acquisition is correct,
children's production should change abruptly and categorically as a
parameter is set in one way or in the other. Nevertheless, says Yang, this
is not what we find in their productions. Rather, at least in the case of
certain syntactic constructions, though not all, error rates are initially
high, and decrease only gradually, without any sign of a dramatic drop
that would be predicted by the (correct) setting of the relevant
parameters. The author thus argues that the Very Early Parameter-Setting
(VEPS) view proposed by Wexler (1998, current volume), according to which
parameters are set correctly from the earliest observable age (around 18
months), cannot hold true for all parameters (e.g. the second position of
the verb in Germanic languages, the obligatory presence of the subject in
English etc.), although he acknowledges that for some, it does (e.g. word
order in English, verb raising in French etc.). Instead, he proposes to
account for the gradual disappearance of errors as a selectional process
at the beginning of which infants start out with the set of all humanly
possible grammars, probabilistically choosing one of them for parsing each
time a sentence comes in from the input. If the chosen grammar is
compatible with the input sentence, its probability is increased,
otherwise it is decreased. Over time, grammars with low probabilities are
eliminated, and learners converge on the target grammar. In this model,
children simultaneously entertain multiple grammars, and eliminate them
gradually, which explains the observed error patterns.

As empirical support for the model, Yang discusses how the obligatory
presence of the subject in English (the non pro-drop property) is
acquired. The world's languages exhibit three major patterns with respect
to pro-drop. In languages like English, pro-drop is not allowed. In many
other languages, such as Italian or Spanish, pronouns can be dropped if
they are in subject position and agree with the inflected verb. In
languages, like Chinese, subjects can be dropped if they are topicalized.
While it is easy for an English-learning child to exclude the Italian-like
pro-drop option, since it is readily visible in already a few input
sentences that inflectional morphology is poor in English, the Chinese-
like grammar takes much more input to rule out. Therefore, the empirical
prediction is that English-learning children's initial pro-drop errors,
before they disappear gradually, will show a Chinese-like pattern. This is
confirmed by empirical data. Let us note, however, that more evidence is
needed before Yang's suggestions can be accepted, since a probabilistic
selectional learning model has no way to explain why all children present
with highly similar developmental paths (e.g. all make similar kinds of
errors and produce the same kinds of constructions in the same
chronological sequence), not only within one language, but also cross-
linguistically. If, at least at the beginning, children were to choose
randomly from the thousands of possible grammars, wouldn't considerable
divergence be expected? Also, would the development not heavily depend on
the nature and the amount of input in such a framework? However, empirical
evidence (Gleitman and Newport 1995, Wexler 1998, current volume) points
to the contrary.

4. Language growth: Language change and language evolution
Models of language acquisition determine how language is transmitted from
one generation to the next. Therefore, they are implicated in the account
one can offer for how language changes over time, or even how language
came about during human evolution. Recently, with the advent of the
minimalist architecture of the language faculty, which has made empirical
inquiry more simple, thus more feasible, the issues of language change and
evolution have received increasing attention (e.g. Hauser, Chomsky and
Fitch 2002).

Since evolutionary and even historical sources are scarce, Partha Niyogi
in his "Phase Transition in Language Evolution" puts forth a computational
approach formally modeling language change, with potential implications
for language evolution. (As it might have already become apparent,
Nigoyi's title is somewhat misleading, as he is not very strict about
distinguishing language change from language evolution.) He proposes to
treat language in time as a dynamical system. In each generation,
grammatical variation is determined by a certain distribution of all the
possible grammars, e.g. in a homogeneous population all speakers have to
same grammar, in a heterogeneous population, some have grammar G1, others
grammar G2, yet others maybe simultaneously both of them, etc. Language
arises in the next generation through language acquisition, which is
driven (within the logical space defined by UG) by the input received from
the previous generation. This, in turn, is derived from the grammar
distribution characterizing that generation. In such a model, grammatical
change depends on two factors, the probability with which speakers of the
older generation produce examples for a given construction, and the
overall amount of input to the new generation.

Crucially, argues Niyogi, gradual changes in these parameters do not
produce linear changes in the dynamics of the system, rather as certain
threshold values are crossed, phase transitions occur. Transitions that
eliminate variation (e.g. a population going from having two grammars to
having only one) always produce stable states, while transitions in the
other direction are not probable, and happen only at vary high values of
the two parameters, which may happen following external influence to the
system, e.g. a massive influx of speakers with a different grammar. Thus,
overall, variation seems to be eliminated, when present, and practically
never emerges, if originally absent. Although this conclusion constitutes
an important contribution to the on-going debate about the origin of
language change (internal or external), it needs further confirmation for
at least two reasons. Firstly, it goes against the initial variationist
assumptions of the model. Secondly, and more importantly, it is not self-
evident how to interpret it in the light of known empirical observations
of historical change, since variation does not always seem to get
eliminated over time.

Another way of overcoming the lack of historical and evolutionary evidence
is to look at cases where language emerges from nothing in the present
times. Although such evens are rare, the creolization of pidgins and the
emergence of sign languages are good cases in point. Judy Kegl's
article, "Language Emergence in the Language-Ready Brain" gives a detailed
description of the lexicon and grammar of American Sign Language and
Nicaraguan Sign Language (Idioma de Senas de Nicaragua, ISN), and offers a
comprehensive report about the emergence and current state of ISN. This is
particularly interesting from a biolinguistic point of view, because ISN
is a genuine case of language emergence de novo. The language was created
by deaf children who came together in a special school in the early 1980s.
Kegl's paper describes the Nicaraguan signer population in detail, showing
that signers who learn ISN early, as a first language (L1), gain access to
all the production rules encoded in lexical items, while late learners
memorize them as frozen, monolithic elements. (In most sign languages,
lexicalized signs are complex and reflect the composition rules of the
language, a little bit like derivational morphology in spoken language
reflects certain productive patterns.) In addition, Kegl analyzes ISN to
show that elements come from one of three different sources. Some derive
directly from simple home-signs and gestures used in the surrounding
spoken language. Others are taken over from these sources, but are
subsequently modified and put to a different use in ISN. Yet others do not
have external origins, and constitute real innovations of ISN.
Interestingly, as Kegl points out, these are precisely the elements used
for grammatical purposes. Thus, she concludes that ISN constitutes strong
evidence in favor of a genetic endowment for language, which can be
triggered by minimal external input (home-signs and gestures from the
spoken languages) to create a full language, because the missing
grammatical system can be filled in by innate content.

Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini and Juan Uriagereka, in their paper
entitled "Immune Syntax", explore the emergence of language from a more
evolutionary, but at the same time more speculative perspective. Starting
out from the minimalist idea of the perfection of syntax, they use the
analogy of the immune system to claim that the imperfections of syntax,
which are introduced by lexical and morphological variation, can be seen
as some kind of a `virus', and syntactic computations work to eliminate
them as fast as possible. On a biological level, they argue, the virus
metaphor can be interpreted as syntax evolving through `horizontal'
mechanisms, a typical example of which is when viral genetic material gets
integrated into the DNA of the host, and then gets transmitted by regular
vertical procedures to future generations. Examples of this are rare, but
attested in our natural history, and the advantage of such a `horizontal'
scenario, the authors argue, is that it operates on exactly the right time
scale to explain the emergence of language, whereas most known vertical
mechanisms cannot account for the recency, as well as the complexity of
language. Nevertheless, as the authors themselves acknowledge, their
hypothesis remains, in its current formulation, an evolutionary just-so-

Isabelle Dupanloup, in her contribution entitled "Genetic Differences and
Language Affinities", explores a much less speculative approach to
language evolution. She starts out by reviewing what is known about the
evolution of the human line from the common primate ancestors up to the
peopling of Europe during the Neolithic spread about 10 000 years ago. Her
state-of-the art report is surely very useful for the non-biologically
trained readers to better understand what issues are at stake, and what
evidence we currently have that bears on these issues. This background
set, she asks the question whether current genetic diversity correlates
with linguistic variation. She finds that when genetic diversity is
measured in terms of blood groups and protein variability, close
correlations obtain (at least, in the populations of Africa, Asia, and
Europe), but similarities between linguistic and genetic variation are
much weaker, when genetic variation is measured at the DNA level. This
suggests, she argues, that there is a common pattern of genetic and
linguistic divergence during human history, indicated by proteins, blood
groups and other allelic variants affected by genetic fluctuations as
rapid as linguistic change. DNA sequences, on the other hand, are subject
to slower evolutionary change, and still reflect an evolutionary stage in
which languages had not yet diverged.

6. Specific Language Impairment under the microscope
One of the focal topics in relating language to the genetic endowment is
the study of genetically-based language pathologies, among which SLI is of
particular interest. The present volume contains several contributions on
the issue.

Heather van der Lely ("Evidence for and Implications of a Domain-Specific
Grammatical Deficit") sets the stage by arguing that G(rammatical-)SLI is
a domain-specific deficit, since the affected children present with
problems in the grammatical domain only, but importantly, not in audition,
general cognition or non-grammatical language skills (pragmatics etc.).
According to van der Lely's Representational Deficit for Dependent
Relations (RDDR) account, G-SLI children have a pervasive deficit
representing hierarchical structure, which surfaces in phonology,
morphology and syntax alike, all three linguistic levels relying on
hierarchical structural representations. More formally, in a minimalist
framework, G-SLI children can be characterized as treating the movement
operation as optional in cases where it is obligatory in the adult
grammar. She presents experimental evidence from wh-movement (question
formation) in English, Greek and Hebrew confirming the predictions. In her
view, then, SLI affects the core of language.

The idea of the optionality of certain grammatical operations in SLI also
underlie the other accounts of this pathology in the volume. However,
these papers focus more closely on inflectional morphology. Nevertheless,
they offer very different explanations.

Ken Wexler, as already mentioned, claims that SLI children are stuck in
the Optional Infinitive stage during development. Since this phase is
brought about by performance limitations on an otherwise adult-like
grammatical system, Wexler, unlike van der Lely, argues that SLI does not
affect the core of grammar.

Following up on Wexler's OI hypothesis, Laurence Leonard ("Exploring the
Phenotype of Specific Language Impairment") observes that SLI children do
indeed omit inflectional morphology. However, as he points out, they do it
more often than linguistically matched normally developing children.
Therefore, he argues that SLI children are more sensitive to the resource
demands of sentence formation and the processing loads imposed by complex
constructions. Supporting this view, he presents experimental results
showing that children with SLI produce more uninflected forms in
ditransitive than in simple transitive constructions.

Myrna Gopnik ("The Investigation of Genetic Dysphasia") gives a different
analysis of optional morphology in SLI, or, in her terminology, genetic
dysphasia. In her view, SLI children lack sublexical, that is
morphological features in their linguistic representations. Therefore,
they cannot decompose polymorphemic forms, they can only memorize them as
unsegmented chunks. So whenever they produce a morphologically complex
inflected form, they have retrieved it from memory. This view, she argues,
is further confirmed by the observation that in morphologically rich
languages such as Greek or Japanese, SLI children have problems not only
with inflections, but also with allomorphoic variations of the roots.

7. Language and the brain
Bridging the gap between genetics and behavior, some of the contributions
in the volume investigate the brain representations and functions
underlying language.

Alfonso Caramazza and Kevin Shapiro report the case studies of aphasic
patients who present with a classical dissociation between verbs and
nouns, but, interestingly, in different modalities. One patient shows poor
performance on verbs in the the oral modality, while another patient shows
a similar deficit for verbs, but only in writing. The authors take the
dissociation of modalities to be strong evidence in favor of a
specifically grammatical deficit, since the underlying semantics (and all
other non-grammatical factors such as imagibility etc.) are the same for
both modalities, e.g. the semantic complexity of the verb to `give' is the
same in speech and writing. Nevertheless, they don't make it clear why the
same argument doesn't apply to the grammatical properties. In addition to
naturally occurring pathologies, an experimental technique called
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is available to induce temporary
`deficits' by knocking out the fuctions of the stimulated brain area.
Using this technique, similar dissociations could be obtained in
linguistic performance. On the basis of the patient and the TMS data,
Caramazza and Shapiro conclude that verbs and nouns are represented in the
brain by distinct circuits, the former probably in the superior, anterior,
the latter in the inferior, posterior part of the left frontal cortex.

Another very common issue in neurolinguistics is the localization of
syntax in the brain. As Yosef Grodzinsky, in his contribution "Variation
in Broca's Region", points out, the old view according to which syntax is
in Broca's region is untenable, because, on the one hand, Broca's region
is also implicated in non-linguistic functions, and, on the other hand,
syntax has been shown to recruit other brain areas, too. However, as he
argues, presenting evidence from patient and brain imaging studies, it
seems to be the case Broca's are is indeed responsable for the syntactic
operation of the movement of phrasal constituents. Therefore, Grodzinsky
concludes, the idea that language is modular at the neural level is

8. Unifying biology and language: still a long way to go?
Beyond their empirical and theoretical merits, the papers are also of
interest from a foundational or epistemological point of view. Implicitly
or explicitly, they are all attempts to bring formal linguistic theory
closer to the study of the more biological aspects of language. The idea
of such a unification was first raised by Chomsky (e.g. 1968) and has been
gaining popularity ever since. In some domains, such as psycholinguistics
and neurolinguistics, progress has been considerable. Other areas, like
the investigation of the evolution of language, have only begun to emerge
(possibly due to the recent changes in linguistic theory brought about by
the MP). Today, the possibility of a unifications might seem so imminent
that the editor of the volume, Lyle Jenkins fully dedicates his
contribution ("Unification in Biolinguistics") to this issue.
Unfortunately, he doesn't go beyond briefly introducing some cases of
unification from the history of the natural sciences, and some rough
analogies between the evolution of species and the emergence of language

Although biolinguistics has gone a long way towards unification, so that
many questions have turned from unsolvable puzzles into formulable
scientific problems, to use Chomsky's terminology, a lot remains to be
done on both sides of the gap before we completely understand the path
from the genome to linguistic behavior in its full complexity.


Chomsky, N. 1968. Language and Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.

Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Gibson, E. and Wexler, K. 1994. "Triggers". Linguistic Inquiry 25(3):407-

Gleitman, L and Newport, E. 1995. "The invention of language by children".
In: Gleitman, L. and Liberman, M (eds.): Invitation to Cognitive Science,
Vol. 1.: Language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Hauser, M., Chomsky, N. and Fitch, T. 2002. "The Faculty of Language: What
Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?" Science 298:1569-1579.

Kayne, R. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Lenneberg, E. 1967. The Biological Foundations of Language. New York:

Pinker, S. 1984. Language Learnability and Language Development.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP.

Pinker, S. and Jackendoff, R. 2005. "The Faculty of Language: What is
Special about it?". Cognition 95(2):201-236.

Wexler, K. 1998. "Very early parameter setting and the unique checking
constraint". Lingua 106:23-79.


Judit Gervain is currently a 3rd year PhD student at the Language,
Cognition and Development Lab, Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, SISSA,
Trieste, Italy under the supervision of Prof. Jacques Mehler. Her first
degree is in English Philology, French Philology and Theoretical
Linguistics from the University of Szeged, Hungary. She wrote her MA
theses in English Philology and in Theoretical Linguistics about focus-
raising phenomena in Hungarian. She has published several papers in this
topic. Currently, she is working on language acquisition. Her precise
research topic is the acquisition of the foundations of syntax in the
first year of life. At the same time, she continues to do research in
theoretical linguistics, in the area of left peripheral phenomena (focus
and wh-raising etc.).

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