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Entangled parametric hierarchies: problems for an overspecified universal grammar.

Boeckx C, Leivada E - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies.The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages.Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic ('parametric') variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: ICREA, Barcelona, Spain ; Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

ABSTRACT
This study addresses the feasibility of the classical notion of parameter in linguistic theory from the perspective of parametric hierarchies. A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies. The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages. The empirical issues uncovered cast doubt on classical parametric models of language acquisition as well as on the conceptualization of an overspecified Universal Grammar that has parameters among its primitives. Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic ('parametric') variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.

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Example of program output for parameter 10.
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pone-0072357-g004: Example of program output for parameter 10.

Mentions: The tool is a program implemented in Java and we used NetBeans IDE (version 7.3.1) to execute it. The code is given in appendix S3 in File S1 and figure 4 provides an example of the program output. The editable version of the code comes with instructions that make the tool user-friendly since it can be easily adapted to perform similar calculations in other pools of data of that sort. The program parses a file that contains the setability paths for each parameter-language pairing in a specific format. In this sense, it is a semi-automatic program because it takes as a prerequisite the calculation of the parametric paths (i.e. the dependencies) by the user. Paths here do not refer to the dependencies as these are given by L&G in the first column of table S1, because the dependencies that involved analyzable parameters had to be amended into a list of all the relevant nodes until reaching an independent parameter. The underlying idea is that the analysis has to proceed all the way down for the complete picture to emerge, exactly as happens in figure 1. The program output is produced as follows: Every path is converted by the user to a logical expression which is formed by the conjunction of Boolean literals. In this case, a Boolean literal is every valued parameter (e.g., [1+]) that a path makes use of in order to specify setability of another parameter. The levels of embedding were all flattened and complexity was measured in terms of the number of nodes in a path. Upon receiving the logical expressions in the form of a string of conjuncted Boolean literals, the program tested their realization in every parameter-language pairing and returned a True/False output (as shown in figure 4) for availability and non-availability of a path in a language respectively. These values are coded in appendix S2 in File S1 as 1 and 0 respectively.


Entangled parametric hierarchies: problems for an overspecified universal grammar.

Boeckx C, Leivada E - PLoS ONE (2013)

Example of program output for parameter 10.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3760868&req=5

pone-0072357-g004: Example of program output for parameter 10.
Mentions: The tool is a program implemented in Java and we used NetBeans IDE (version 7.3.1) to execute it. The code is given in appendix S3 in File S1 and figure 4 provides an example of the program output. The editable version of the code comes with instructions that make the tool user-friendly since it can be easily adapted to perform similar calculations in other pools of data of that sort. The program parses a file that contains the setability paths for each parameter-language pairing in a specific format. In this sense, it is a semi-automatic program because it takes as a prerequisite the calculation of the parametric paths (i.e. the dependencies) by the user. Paths here do not refer to the dependencies as these are given by L&G in the first column of table S1, because the dependencies that involved analyzable parameters had to be amended into a list of all the relevant nodes until reaching an independent parameter. The underlying idea is that the analysis has to proceed all the way down for the complete picture to emerge, exactly as happens in figure 1. The program output is produced as follows: Every path is converted by the user to a logical expression which is formed by the conjunction of Boolean literals. In this case, a Boolean literal is every valued parameter (e.g., [1+]) that a path makes use of in order to specify setability of another parameter. The levels of embedding were all flattened and complexity was measured in terms of the number of nodes in a path. Upon receiving the logical expressions in the form of a string of conjuncted Boolean literals, the program tested their realization in every parameter-language pairing and returned a True/False output (as shown in figure 4) for availability and non-availability of a path in a language respectively. These values are coded in appendix S2 in File S1 as 1 and 0 respectively.

Bottom Line: A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies.The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages.Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic ('parametric') variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: ICREA, Barcelona, Spain ; Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

ABSTRACT
This study addresses the feasibility of the classical notion of parameter in linguistic theory from the perspective of parametric hierarchies. A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies. The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages. The empirical issues uncovered cast doubt on classical parametric models of language acquisition as well as on the conceptualization of an overspecified Universal Grammar that has parameters among its primitives. Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic ('parametric') variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.

Show MeSH