Soap Vox Lecture | Wed 3 October | Antonella Sorace and Caroline Heycock

at 18:00 in Appleton Tower

Revisiting the link between language acquisition and language change: new insights from Faroese

Abstract: Language change over generations is typically argued to involve a failure of transmission between generations: the grammar posited by children is different to that used by their parents (using “parents” as shorthand for all speakers of the older generation), and this process repeats – with the difference always being in the same direction, if the result is to be change rather than fluctuation. A major challenge, evidently, is to explain why children should not always converge on the same grammar as their parents. In this talk we’ll look at a syntactic change that has taken place repeatedly in the history of the Germanic languages – the loss of the possibility of placing the finite verb before negation (consider for example that modern English no longer allows “know” to precede “not”, in contrast to examples from Early Modern English such as “They know not what they do”). We’ll show how research that we’ve been doing on syntactic variation in a modern Scandinavian language, Faroese, contributes to debates about how much data, and of what kind, children need to be exposed to in order to acquire a particular system.

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Entry is £1 and FREE to active members. Membership can be purchased on our EUSA profile (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/societies/society/langsoc/) or otherwise at that night.

The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.

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