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Learnable and unlearnable languages Kees Hengeveld.

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1 Learnable and unlearnable languages Kees Hengeveld

2 Introduction Can a typologist contribute to the Learnability discussion? Can we distinguish between learnable and unlearnable languages? A methodological problem: unlearnable languages have not been attested The alternative: determining degrees of learnability The implication: some languages are harder/easier to learn than others 2

3 Introduction Transparency as a crucial factor in language acquisition Implicational relations between degrees of transparency can be uncovered through typological research The resulting hierarchy helps to identify the most opaque/transparent features of language and to identify the most opaque/ transparent language systems 3

4 Contents 1. Transparency 2. Defining Transparency in FDG 3. Typology 4. Typology and acquisition 5.Implications for other fields of language study 6. Conclusions 4

5 1. Transparency

6 Transparency Turkish el-ler-im-de hand- PL-1.SG.POSS-LOC ‘in my hands’ Mastered before the age of two

7 Transparency Dutch debal DEF.COMM ball (COMM) hetpaard DEF.NEUT horse (NEUT) Not completely mastered at the age of seven

8 Transparency: overgeneralization Dutch ikkoop-te

9 Transparency ≠ simplicity Turkish Koş-uş-tur-ul-a-ma-dı-y-sa-lar. run- RECIPR-CAUS-PASS-ABIL-NEG-PST.VIS-y-COND-PL ‘If they haven’t been made available for our service.’ Dutch verbal system with tense, number, person

10 Transparency: Esperanto Design feature of Esperanto Esperanto La uson-aprezid-ant-oBushpretend-is, ke Irako […] DEFUSA-adjpreside-PRES.PRTC-NBushpretend-PSTthatIraq ‘The US president Bush pretended that Iraq […]’

11 2. Defining transparency in FDG

12 Frames, Lexemes, Primary operators Templates, Auxiliaries, Secondary operators Interpersonal Level Representational Level Formulation Morphosyntactic Encoding Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Encoding Phonological Level Prosodic patterns, Morphemes, Tertiary operators

13 13 Interpersonal Level (π M 1 :[Move (π A 1 :[ Discourse Act (π F 1 )Illocution (π P 1 ) S Speaker (π P 2 ) A Addressee (π C 1 :[Communicated Content (π T 1 ) Φ Ascriptive Subact (π R 1 ) Φ Referential Subact ] (C 1 ) Φ Communicated Content ] (A 1 ) Φ Discourse Act ] (M 1 ))Move

14 14 Representational Level (π p 1 :Propositional Content (π ep 1 :Episode (π e 1 : State-of-Affairs [(π f 1 :[Configurational Property (π f 1 )Lexical Property (π x 1 ) Φ Individual ] (f 1 ))Configurational Property (e 1 ) Φ ])State-of-Affairs (ep 1 ))Episode (p 1 ))Propositional Content

15 15 Morphosyntactic Level (Le 1 : Linguistic Expression (Cl 1 : Clause (Xp 1 : Phrase (Xw 1 : Word (Xs 1 )Stem (Aff 1 )Affix (Xw 1 ))Word (Xp 1 )) Phrase (Cl 1 ))Clause (Le 1 ))Linguistic Expression

16 16 Phonological Level (π U 1 : Utterance (π IP 1 : Intonational Phrase (π PP 1 : Phonological Phrase (π PW 1 : Phonological Word (π F 1 : Foot (π S 1 )Syllable (F 1 )) Foot (PW 1 )) Phonological Word (PP 1 )) Phonological Phrase (IP 1 ) N Intonational Phrase (U 1 )) Utterance

17 Frames, Lexemes, Primary operators Templates, Auxiliaries, Secondary operators Interpersonal Level Representational Level Formulation Morphosyntactic Encoding Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Encoding Phonological Level Prosodic patterns, Morphemes, Tertiary operators

18 Relations between Levels 18 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

19 Relations between Levels 19 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

20 Relations between Levels 20 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

21 Relations between Levels 21 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

22 Relations within Levels 22 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

23 Relations within Levels 23 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

24 Relations between and within Levels 24 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

25 Interpersonal - Representational 25 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

26 No apposition One Interpersonal unit should map onto one representational unit Sri Lankan Malay MrSebastian aada,seaadakithamduuvaarà-oomong. MrSebastian exist1.SGexist1.PL two NON.PAST-speak ‘You are here, I am here, the two of us are talking.’ Chickasaw Abohaanõ’k-akõDanib-aa-binni’li-li-tok. housein-CONTR.NONSUBJDanCOM-LOC-sit-1.SG.A-PST ‘I sat with Dan in the house.’ 26

27 Predication No limitations on which semantic units can be chosen as predicates Kharia Lebuɖel=ki. mancome=M.PST ‘The man came.’ Bhagwanlebu=kiroɖel=ki. Godman=m.pstandcome=m.pst ‘God became man [=Jesus] and came [to earth].’ 27

28 Interpersonal/Representational - Morphosyntactic 28 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

29 No grammatical relations Pragmatic/semantic alignment system Acehnese Lȏnteungöh=lȏn=jak. 1M=1.A=go ‘I am going.’ Gopnyangalak=geuhthat. 3.POLhappy=3.POL.Uvery ‘He is very happy.’ 29

30 No discontinuity Pragmatic/semantic units map onto a single morphosyntactic unit English The guy who is going to fix my lock has arrived. The guy has arrived who is going to fix my lock. 30

31 Function marking not sensitive to nature of input Phrase rather than head marking Nama ǁ’iĩpke‘áop=àkèǂaí. 3.SG.MDECLman=ACCREM.PASTcall ‘He called the man.’ Siíkxmkekèǁnàúǁ’iípkò!úu!xáis=à. 1.PL.M.DUDECLREM.PASThear 3.SG.MREC.PASTgoCOMP=ACC ‘We heard that he had just left.’ 31

32 Interpersonal/Representational/ Morphosyntactic - Phonological 32 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level

33 Phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing run parallel Acehnese [Ureueng='nyan][ka=geu=jak='woe][ba'roe] person=DEMINCH=3=go=returnyesterday ‘That person returned yesterday.’ Dutch [Ik][[wou][dat [hij][kwam]]]. ['kʋɑu]['dɑti]['kʋɑm] Iwant.PSTCOMPhecome.PST ‘I wish he would come.’ 33

34 Phonological Phonological weight does not influence position Spanish Lo=ví. 3.SG.ACC=see.PRF.PST.IND.3.SG ‘I saw him.’ Víatuvecino. see.PRF.PST.IND.3.SGOBJ2.SG.POSSneighbour ‘I saw you neighbour.’ 34

35 Within the Morphosyntactic Level 35 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

36 No expletive elements Tagalog Marami-ngpera. lot-LNKmoney ‘There is a lot of money.’ “A lot of money” 36

37 No tense copying Amele Nausuqaege[qilabele-q-anfo=ec]sisil-t-en. NausheItodaygo-1.PL-FUTQ=NMLZask-1.SG/3.SG-REM.PST ‘Naus asked me whether we would go today.’ 37

38 No grammatical gender, declination, conjugation Spanish casa ‘house’ is arbitrarily assigned to the class of feminine nouns árbol ‘tree’ is arbitrarily assigned to the class of masculine nouns 38

39 No agreement Spanish la-øcasa-øviej-a-ø DEF.F-SGhouse(F)-SGold-F-SG ‘the old house’ elárbol-øviej-o-ø DEF.M.SGtree(M)-SGold-M-SG ‘the old tree’ 39

40 No fusional morphology No stem alternation Wambon en-ande-na- eat(basic stem)eat(PAST/FUT/IMP.PL stem)eat(IMP.SG stem) No cumulation Spanish compr-é. buy-IND.PAST.PF.1.SG ‘(I) bought.’ 40

41 No phonological adaptation 41 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

42 No phonological adaptation Quechua nasal assimilation: tayta-n=paq ‘father-3.POSS=PURP’ ‘for his father’ -> taytampaq Spanish diphtongization: dormir ‘sleep’ duerme ‘sleeps’ Dutch degemination: pakkans ‘chance to be caught’ -> pakans Turkish vowel harmony: gel-miș‘come-RES’ gör-müș ‘see-RES’ 42

43 3. Typology

44 Sample Diu Indo-Portuguese (Leufkens 2010) Dutch Esperanto (Jansen fc.) Kharia (Leufkens fc.) Pichi (Leufkens 2010) Quechua (Grández Ávila fc.) Sri Lankan Malay (Nordhoff fc.) 44

45 45 Transparent featureDIPDutchKhariaPichi Que- chua SLM No apposition All semantic units used as predicates No grammatical relations No discontinuity No sensitivity for nature of input Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No influence of ph. weight No expletive elements No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No stem alternation No cumulation No phonological adaptation------

46 46 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No apposition All semantic units used as predicates No grammatical relations No discontinuity No sensitivity for nature of input Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No influence of ph. weight No expletive elements No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No stem alternation No cumulation No phonological adaptation------

47 47 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation No apposition No cumulation------

48 48 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation No apposition No cumulation------

49 Two scales Learnable/unlearnable languages Learnable/unlearnable features 49

50 50 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation No apposition No cumulation------

51 Unlearnable non-transparent features 51 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level: Form X → Form Y Phonological Level

52 Learnable non-transparent features 52 Interpersonal Level Representational Level Morphosyntactic Level Phonological Level: Form X → Form Y

53 The learnability of Esperanto Phonology and morphology are extremely learnable Syntax is not 53

54 54 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia Espe- ranto No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morpho­syntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation No apposition No cumulation

55 4. Typology and acquisition

56 56 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No tense copying—+++++ No grammatical gender—+++++ No agreement—+++++ No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation No apposition No cumulation------

57 Tense copying Hij vroeg of ikziekwas. heask.PAST.SGwhether IillCOP.PAST.SG ‘He asked whether I was ill.’ Ambiguity in acquisition: He asked: “Are you ill?”. He asked: “Were you ill?”. Japanese Taroo=waHanako=gabyookidat-ta=toit-ta Taroo=TOPHanako=NOMbe.sick.PAST=COMPsay-PAST ‘Taroo said that Hanako had been sick.’ 57

58 Tense copying Hollebrandse (1999) The correct interpretation of the tense-copied form takes at least until 7 58

59 Gender and agreement hetdingdejongen DEFthing(NEUT)DEFboy(COMM) ‘the thing’‘the boy’ een klein-Ø ding INDEFsmall-NEUTthing(NEUT) ‘a small thing’ een klein-e jongen INDEFsmall-COMMboy(COMM) ‘a small boy’ 59

60 Gender and agreement Blom, Polišenská & Weerman (2008) The acquisition of the gender/agreement system takes at least until 7 60

61 61 Transparent featureDutch Que- chua PichiDIPSLMKharia No tense copying No grammatical gender No agreement No grammatical relations Parrallel phonological and morphosyntactic phrasing No expletive elements No sensitivity for nature of input No discontinuity No stem alternation All semantic units used as predicates No influence of phon. weight No phonological adaptation-----— No apposition-----— No cumulation-----—

62 5. Implications for other fields of language study

63 Implications Why are there so few transparent languages, while they seem to be the most easily learnable ones? Time depth seems to enhance opaqueness. Among the limited set of examples of transparent languages, creole languages are well represented And so are (young) sign languages 63

64 Implications Intensive contact seems to favour transparency which brings in the perspective of second language acquisition All of this, in turn, is relevant for the theoretical debate about the autonomy of grammar 64

65 6. Conclusions

66 Conclusions An important parameter in determining the degree of learnability of a language is its degree of transparency Degrees of transparency can be established on the basis of typological research, given a formal definition of transparent features These degrees of transparency determine ease of first language acquisition 66

67 Conclusions Typological research thus contributes to learnability research..... and has a spin-off in other domains of linguistic research, especially research into language contact and second language acquisition, and the emergence of new (sign) languages 67

68 this presentation is accessible at home.hum.uva.nl/oz/hengeveldp


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