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Grammar as a Maturationally Controlled Behavior: Minimality in language Development and Impairment

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In his seminal book on the “Biological Foundations of Language” Eric Lenneberg describes four hallmarks for language acquisition, defined as a maturationally controlled emergence behavior (MCB): (1) a regular sequence of milestones correlated with age and other developmental factors; (2) an environmental stimulation as an opportunity for use; (3) the emergence of the behavior before of its use and (4) the evidence that this is not a sign of a goal-directed practice.

In this talk, a similar framework will be adopted to address the late emergence of grammatical based intervention structures (long distance dependencies) as examples of MCB , looking at potentialities of a grammatical behavior more than solely to its representation. Data from developmental language disorders and people with aphasia will be presented, investigating which internal changes in the language organism rather than in the environment must at once endeavor grammar. The role of the environmental stimulation will be then integrated for the case of children growing up with more than one language, where grammatical based intervention structures can evolve differently compare to monolinguals due to a more diverse set of grammatical options. Finally a measure for tracking grammatical development of intervention structures based on evidence from structural priming will be proposed for the investigation of the deficit in language implicit learning mechanisms in children with developmental language disorders (DLD).

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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