Towards a Dual Mechanism Model

of Language Development


Joseph Galasso


California State University, Northridge

Presented at the Child Language Research Forum-2004, Stanford



The study of syntactic development in children, for all intents and purposes, is reducible to a single minded inquiry into how the very young child (implicitly) knows to distinguish between lexical stems and functional affixes. Hence, the overriding question burning in the minds of most developmental linguists is morpho-phonological in nature. For instance, it would seem that the child must at least know (a priori) the stem before she can then engage in a dual-track process by which ambient separation of the morpho-phonological distinction attributive to past tense is carried out, say, between the paradigmatic representation of the English word play vs. play-ed /ple-d/ (a dual processing which provokes separation of the /play/-stem and the /d/-affix). Otherwise, it could be conceivable for the young child that the pair play-played would represent altogether two different lexical stems, and, stored as such, reflect two distinct though relatively similar semantic notions (a single processing): perhaps not unlike what we do find regarding derived words where an otherwise 'two-morpheme' analysis of [teach]-{er} is processed (tagged, stored and retrieved) as a 'single-morpheme' stem [teacher], similar to how the word [brother] is stored.[1]


            A two-point conclusion is reached in this paper: (i) that children have instant access to and make tacit use of innate syntactic knowledge, allowing them instinctively to know to separate stem from affix-leading to a Gradual Development Hypothesis which shows developmental asymmetry between the acquisition of lexical vs. functional categories (Radford 1990)-and (ii) that such prima facie knowledge naturally arises from The Dual Mechanism Model, a processing model that offers the best of both worlds in that it can account for both how the child comes to 'know' lexical stems in the first place, and subsequently, how such stems come to be distinguished and project morpho-phonological material leading to stem vs. affix separation.


            Finally, an interesting and potentially far reaching implication is advanced stating that there resides not only a dual routing system in the brain for the split processing of stem+affix material, but that the proposed dual model can be extended in such a way as to cast an entirely new dual-typology of language in the sense that (i) 'modular-complex' weak-stem/synthetic languages with a low, medium to high gradient range of stem modularity (English, Spanish to Hebrew, respectively) come to use the cerebral rule-based processing area as an additional language storage capacity, in contrast to (ii) 'modular-simple' strong-stem/analytical, agglutinative languages (Chinese, Hungarian) which, due to their global modularity, mitigate inflectional affixation to a much less complex system, thus preserving a more economically robust single storage capacity based entirely on the frequency-based processing area of the brain.[2],[3],[4]  When this notion of modular-complexity is raised in conjunction with a previously established parameter setting dealing with [+/- Bare-Stem] languages, a new and powerful tool is fashioned allowing us to better describe and explain child functional category/feature onsets within divergent language groups. It is therefore argued that many of the cross-linguistic asymmetries found in Early Child Inflectional Development should be better thought of as reflecting how the innate Language Faculty provides languages the selection of a single vs. a dual storage capacity.


Assumptions and Suppositions

We follow Chomsky's (1995) 'The Minimalist Program' (MP) throughout and assume language has real structural antecedents to the mind/brain-The I-language is a state of the mind/brain. We then assume there to be real physiological connections between language, syntactic structure and relevant brain processing. A 'theory-of-mind' must therefore interest us as we build upon any language theory. Still, very little is known about how a brain bootstraps itself and creates a mind, as there is little understanding of the brain/mind relation. An isolative 'theory-of- brain' and its processing, however, is much better understood and allows us to be a bit more precise. There is now strong scientific evidence to suggest that innate architectural principles of the brain process linguistic information in two fundamentally different ways, thus, by extension, determining how lexical vs. functional features project into syntactic structures. We likewise assume that this dual processing, as defined and expressed (overtly/covertly) in 'syntactic trees' has real linguistic relevancy and is constrained by certain legibility conditions (at PF/LF interfaces). We further assume this relevancy captures a natural cut, or a language divergence, as characterized by a dichotomy between semantic-based language (pertaining to the VP) vs. syntactic-based language (pertaining to the IP). 


            Following the general framework as laid out in Chomsky 1995, along with crucial assumptions as detailed in 'Distributed Morphology' (DM) (Halle and Marantz 1993) (viz., the notion that functional heads serve as the locus of lexical insertion, with word formation occurring in the syntax as a result of the syntactic combination of such heads, and, that due to maturation, functional heads may go unspecified in the syntax) we assume this cut shows itself in the lexicon as follows and may have a real brain-language physiological correspondence to how a higher syntactic position (IP-dominated) versus a lower syntactic position (VP-dominated) respectively captures the overt vs. covert checking of features:


            The V(erb) P(hrase) contains phono-semantic features. These features are substantive in some way, and thus interpretable at each relevant interface. Lexical knowledge associated with the VP is therefore said to be unavoidably trivial and instinctive to a certain degree, as derived by a set of data-driven 'sound-meaning' relations appropriated to the PF/LF interface. Features of the VP are labeled +Interp(retable) and, as a rule, do not require the movement of its head into a higher functional projection. (DM labels such features as l-morphemes (lexical): they are idiomatic and correspond to concrete categories of Verb/Noun/Adjective).


            The I(nflectional) P(hrase) contains features that are not substantive in some way and are therefore -Interp at either phonological or semantic interface. Functional knowledge associated with the IP is therefore said to be non-trivial, as derived by a set of rule-based relations which must then be 'checked-off' at the PF/LF interface. Whenever the typology of a language forces -Interp features to be checked in the overt syntax, this forces the features to project in the morphology of the language. Whenever such features can go unchecked in the overt syntax, the choice between overt vs. covert expression in the language depends on that language's specific morphological parameterizations. (See 35 Typology). These formal features represent for the most part what drives language variation. The reasoning for their existence in language remains somewhat of a curiosity (it may be that such non-substantive features ultimately drive the unique 'displacement property' of human language-in the very general sense that functional checking motivates movement up the syntactic tree) (DM labels such features as f-morphemes (functional): they are non-idiomatic and rely on vocabulary selection).


            Suppose that the VP is exclusively pinned to the sensori-motor component of the brain, the more primitive part of the brain that controls cognitive motor-skill, memory and lower-level associative learning. In this sense, the VP presides as the lexical category (par excellence) alongside semantic-based [+Interpretable] features. Lexical categories exist prior to any computational numeration.


            Suppose, in addition, that the IP is rather pinned to areas of the brain which house more abstract levels of thought (perhaps exclusively relating to the left/frontal lobe region of the brain). Functional categories are the result of the combination of a lexical item and a functional/inflectional feature (a numeration).


            Suppose further that classic processing distinctions between Derivational vs. Inflectional morphologies may be fuller understood in light of this dichotomy, i.e., that derivations ultimately trace their origins back to interpretable features internal to the lexicon (l-morpheme), and, conversely, that Inflections are nothing more than 'morpho-phonetic fillers' (expletive in nature), the remnants of some computational operation of a broader syntactic scope (f-morpheme). It is this latter observation inflection that will interest us in this paper. More than any other single linguistic property, it is the nature and projection of inflection that gives a language its typology-languages differ in inflectional systems. It is suggested in this paper that the brain may house two separate language storage capacities (perhaps in some way paralleling PF vs. LF representational systems) which involve a parameter-setting, reflecting to some degree how a language selects to show these fillers: a language may opt for fillers as affixes, disjoint from the lexical stem, or opt to incorporate the fillers somehow as part of the stem. (In generic ways, the former entails the operation Move, while the latter entails the operation Merge. In more concrete ways, the former operation Move may force an entire lexical item to overtly raise with an affix, as seen in so called pied-piping, since a formal affix unattached to its stem would crash at PF). Expanding on this argument, a dual-typology of Semantic transparency vs. Grammaticization-based languages is suggested, termed herein as a 'Modular-simple' vs. 'Modular-complex' parameter. The parameter reduces to the selection of how a given language stores and projects such vacuous filler material. Nothing hinges on this last supposition: the dichotomy could be upheld irrespective of whether or not such a dual storage capacity is ultimately correct. Future developmental research will surely look toward MEG, fMRI and PET scans to ultimately replace models of syntactic tree diagramming. Only through better brain-to-language modeling will we eventually transform language theories into biological certainties. 



It is now well documented that English children pass through a (gradual) developmental stage in which they comprehensively fail to project functional categories and features. At the same time, it is equally well documented that children of other language groups, relative in age to their English counterparts, may not proceed in a similar (gradual) fashion in omitting the same formal categories and/or features. Thus, it would seem any attempt to tether formal functional deletion to a more general cognitive deficit, as based on a biologically-driven maturational theory of language development, would run into several difficulties.


            It is argued in this paper that a unifying heuristic procedure which incorporates a two-prong analysis of (i) Feature Complexity and (ii) Inflectional Paradigm Complexity indeed maintains, as the working null hypothesis, a biologically based maturational account and may help determine the eventualities of a language's development, as attested in child language acquisition. The heuristics come to detail a 'Converging Theories Hypothesis' of sorts which attempts to describe language acquisition along the lines as being both 'Discontinuous' in nature to that of the adult target language (regarding top-down paradigmatic/structure analogy, thus saving some elements of a maturational account), and at the same time 'Continuous' (regarding type-token frequency learning which is described as a bottom-up cognitive universal).

            The 'Dual Mechanism Model' is then advanced as being best positioned to account for the attested child language asymmetries found amongst the diverging language groups discussed. Therefore, it is to be maintained that only insofar as the Dual Mechanism Model is operative can we then postulate for a maturational theory of language development.


[0]       This paper constitutes the first segment of 'Twin Working Papers'[5] and is more-or-less a personal exercise in formulating my own ideas on a Research Statement, the purpose of which is exploratory in nature and mainly designed as a general means of roughly expressing my own thoughts and understanding in the area of developmental language research. Due to the 'Working' nature of the notes herein, it will appear at times that ideas are disjoint and surface at will. Having said this, it is my intention that the framework evolve. The notes come to be centered on a driving notion termed 'Converging Theories', a hypothesis that firmly attempts to pair the divergent cross-linguistic language data-attested in the differing language groups which show rich vs. impoverished inflectional morphology-to that of a current unifying hypothesis termed the 'Dual Mechanism Model' (Marcus et al. 1994, Pinker 1999,  Clahsen 1999).


[1]       It is now well documented that English children pass through a (gradual) developmental stage in which they completely omit functional [categories] and {features}such as [CP, IP, DP] and {T(ense), AGR(eement) CA(se)}. Following the developments of research models over two decades, as advanced in Felix (1984), Borer & Wexler (1987), Guilfoyle & Noonan (1988), Radford (1990), Wexler (1994), Hyams (1996), and  Radford & Galasso (1998), there is today strong, surmounting evidence to support some kind of Discontinuity (or, for a lack of a better term, some 'non-adult-like' conceptual linguistic formation) between the English speaking child and adult, at least with regards to the aforementioned projections of functional categories and/or their features. (See 21 for some data).


[2]       After the attested 'No Functional Categories' stage, children then seem to pass through a slightly more developed (albeit non-target) stage in which they confuse much of the functional grammar they have acquired. For example, it is not uncommon for English speaking children to go through an early stage of development in which they over-regularize a Gender feature, whereby the pronoun He is used for both males and females alike (CHILDES, Brown files: 13). In addition to a gender pronoun feature non-specificity, a child might confuse the 1/2nd person feature spell-outs of the pronoun I for You and You for I, or may simply generalize the 3rd person possessor features for possessive {'s} (Tom's) onto the first and second person possessor (my's, your's) (Chiat 1982).



[3]       In addition to some of the feature confusion or non-specificity as mentioned above, the most salient fact about child language is the systematic 'omission' of functional material-a 'No Functional Category' stage-both in the forms of the functional categories themselves, as well as with the associative parameters that maintain such feature specificity (Spec-Head  relations in higher-order functional phrases).


[4]       Notwithstanding such apparent data which seemingly call for Discontinuity between child and adult grammar, a split has emerged nevertheless amongst those developmental linguists (i) who espouse for an initial stage of child syntax which begins in complete absence of functional material (a Non-Functional/Inflectional stage as suggested in Radford 1990/Radford & Galasso 1998) contra those (ii) who espouse for an initial stage which begins with partial absence of functional material (an O(ptional) I(nfinitive) stage as suggested by Wexler 1994).


[5]       Proponents calling for such Continuity tend to cite not only English as one potential confirmation source (leading to the aforementioned rift between Radford vs. Wexler), but cite the early emergence of functional categories in other language groups, thus complicating Radford's general claim for an initial No-Functional stage-1. New criteria can be established in order to make the debates more precise. Questions into whether or not a language's inflectional system is sufficiently rich to spawn very early MLU onsets of affix morphology enter into the equation. This then naturally leads to question regarding whether or not the early presence of syntactic movement is linked to the checking of functional material (Chomsky 1995). One might ask whether the given language manifests a kind of deviant inflectional usage (as attested by abnormal Aphasia/Specific Language Impairment studies)-many such errors in certain language types essentially amount to errors with wrong inflectional usage of 'commission' as opposed to any complete inflectional 'omission' (in defiance of the discontinuity theory as mentioned above). (We'll consider these each in turn in 11 below). Hence, the two differing hypotheses, Discontinuity vs. Continuity, could be said to converge roughly at the cross-roads of morphological typology: namely, it has been suggested that when a language has a relatively rich inflection [+INFL], that language will seemingly exhibit the early projection of functional categories/features (as attested by child language studies of the relevant language). However, when a language does not have a sufficiently rich inflection [-INFL], that language will exhibit a somewhat delayed projection of functional categories/features (a delay that has been cited as providing general evidence for maturational based hypotheses). It is in this general sense that language morphological typology is said to drive (top-down) the nature of early child syntactic projection (in contrast to, say, a biologically determined maturational process). Put another way, (i) it is first a priori knowledge of morpho-phonology that triggers the appropriation of syntax, (ii) the syntax, in turn, then seeks out both the choice of words and the nature of the paradigm.[6]

[6]       Hence, following the 'Dual Mechanism Model' (DMM), children 'know' that Inflected forms are not lexical since such forms are conceptualized and generated in a separate processing modular. The DMM maintains that a clean separation takes place between the lexical stem and the affix-a stem is 'meaning based' and thus housed in the temporal-lobe region of the brain (Wernicke's area), while the affix is 'abstract' and thus housed in the frontal-lobe region (Broca's area). The lexicon lists only lexical items (stems) while functional items (affixes) are added at a second stage in the numeration. (See 44 for diagram). The DMM credits the Brain/Mind with having two fundamentally different cognitive modes of language processing-this dual mechanism has recently been reported as reflecting inherent qualitative distinctions found between (i) regular verb inflectional morphology (where rule-based stem+affixes form a large contingency) and (ii) irregular verb constructions (where full lexical forms seem to be stored as associative chunks). The Language Faculty thus provides us with two ways of symbolic representation.


[7]       The overall approach here is therefore 'top down' since there is no sense in the word 'Knowing' unless there is first 'Access'. (Though it is generally accepted in Feature Theory (Chomsky 1995) that syntax is driven 'bottom-up' by features which peculate up from the lexeme and enter into a phrase configuration-presumably a spec-head configuration under a movement analogy termed Merge-the proposed model here differs only to the extend that we believe the initial 'Access' to such features is 'top-down'). This has the flavor of saying that the debate over continuity may be misplaced and badly spelled-out, and that the crucial debate rather hinges on how the maturing, neurodevelopment of the brain processes (or doesn't process) the 'accessed' paradigmatic/inflectional material generated by the two diverging language groups. Having said this, I follow Meisel (1994) and suggest that it is the full-fledge realization of the INFL-paradigm that should be the real measure of competency, rather than any language specific piece-meal affixation process by which morpho-particles affix to stems, since the latter could always be explained away as misanalysis on the child's part in ways that do not directly speak to a well formulized inflectional paradigm (e.g., formulaic and/or lexical incorporation, lexical redundancy rules,  un-analyzable chunks, etc.).[7]

[8]       Early Inflection: Pro-Continuity.         Contrary to what some might like in assuming child-to-adult discontinuity-viz., that all languages start out with deficient functional categories, say, owing to a general cognitive development of functional categories-a good amount of data found in the literature calling for a least some aspect of early functional competence include language groups such as French (Pierce: 1989, 1992) and German (Clahsen: 1990, 1994).[8] Hence, those clinging to continuity can always claim that at least one functional category is present from the very earliest MLU of child speech (hence, quieting any clarion call for a strong discontinuity hypothesis). For instance, Pierce shows that from the early age of 1;9-2;3 (Nathalie files) +Fin(ite) V(erbs) (hosting T/AGR) show movement via their raising out of VP above NegP and into a functional IP, whereas -Fin(ite) Verbs remain VP in-situ. (NegP is traditionally viewed as being an intermediate phrase situated between the lower VP and the higher IP). Such findings illustrate syntactic sensitivity on the part of the child by the fact that the features in the lexeme drive syntactic movement for purposes of checking. (The checking of formal -Interpretable features such as CA and AGR must ensue under concord between a functional Spec-Head configuration).



[9]       French:              IP     (Pierce 1992)               +/-Finite Syntax (Pierce 1989)


            (i)            I                  NegP                                             [+Finite]    [-Finite]


                             |            Neg      VP                         pas verb          11            77   

                             |              |                          verb pas          185          2     

                                                   V        N      

            (a)            veuxi     pas     ti      lolo      => Functional projection

             [1Sg Pres] want       not              water  

            (b)                        Pas   manger           => Lexical projection

                                         Not   eat [Inf]          






[10]     German:           FP (=Functional Phrase)                   (Clahsen et al. 1994: p. 9)


                            Spec            F'                   


                                    [+F]             VP


                                                Neg         VP


                                                        Spec         V'




                        [+Fin] V2 utterances                           [-Fin] V-final utterances

            (a)        Kann er nich                            (2;9)    (c) hase auch auytofahrn         (2;4)

                        (can he not)                                              (hare also car drive)

            (b)       ich hab hier reintecken tasche (2;6)    (d) mone auch lump ausziehen (1;11)

                        (I have here put in bag)                            (Simone also rag take off) 


            Clahsen sites very early MLU German child sentences in which 90% of all Finite Verbs show raising across negation into a higher host, verb-second position (here, labeled FP (=Functional Phrase). Non-finite verbs in V2 position are practically non-existent (op. cit: 13).


[11]     SLI: Pro-Continuity.   In addition to the question of the early (vs. late) projection of inflectional, a second line of inquiry has begun to look at Specific Language Impairment (SLI) as a means of teasing out just how the morpho-syntax within divergent language groups is processed. For example, one factor that arises out of morphological typology is the classification of a matrix parameter that holds between [+/-INFL(ectional)] to [+/-Bare Stem]. For instance, languages which have a rich inflection [+INFL] tend to also have a [-Bare Verb Stem] parameter setting (Hyams 1987) and vice versa. Languages such as Italian, Spanish, among others (with perhaps the most sever case being Hebrew) are non-stem-based languages in the sense that the projection of a bare stem doesn't constitute a word. (In the case of Hebrew, the radical root of a word can only be realized and projected in conjunction with the root's morpho-phonological paradigm). Whereas it is grammatical to project the bare verb stem speak in English (as in the infinitive usage I can 'speak' French), it is ungrammatical to do so in Italian or Spanish *parl-, *habl-. What turns out to be interesting along these line of inquiry is that with respect to both child language development and SLI, [+INFL]=>[-Bare Stem] languages tend to show immediate and systematic functional category/feature projection on the one hand and only SLI inflectional error usage on the other. (See Grodzinsky (1990) for a detailed look into Aphasic/SLI studies). For example, Italian SLI subjects never omit inflections as that would violate word-structure properties. Italian SLI rather typical involves inflectional errors having to do with misplaced Gender, Number and Agreement-e.g., 


                        (i)        *Quest-o         macchin-a

                                    This {masc}    car {fem}

                                    (This car)


            This contrasts with both normally developing children as well as SLI children of the matrix correlate [-INFL]=>[+Bare Stem] (i.e., English) who show a stage in which functional categories/features are entirely missing. What this seems to suggest is that before such language specific data can outright challenge the general notion of discontinuity in child language acquisition, a more detailed analysis of the language's morpho-syntactic processing must be obtained.


[12]     Since French does constitute as a [-INFL]=>[+Bare Stem] language, how do we square this with the above observation made by Pierce that there is very early functional projection? One would expect that since French constitutes a weakly inflected though synthetically strong language, discontinuity theorists would assume an initial stage in which inflection is not yet procured. (For further arguments along this line of assumption, see 35 Inflections and Typology).


[13]     Well, as it turns out, there is some evidence to suggest that the picture is somewhat mixed and that Pierce's French children (perhaps more so than Clahsen's German Children) do have a stage (albeit short lived) during which they completely omit functional categories-'a clarion call for discontinuity'. For instance, as Radford notes (1995) and as pointed out by Atkinson (1995 p. 53)


            ...'if we read [Pierce's] work carefully, we uncover the observation that in the very first recording of Nathalie at age 1;9;3,..., Nathalie uses only nonfinite verb forms, not finite verbs.'


            Atkinson notes: Radford goes on to cite Pierce's own observation of a very early stage at which inflected forms are absent. Though it is unclear what Pierce precisely means by 'uninflected forms', we can at least assume that she has identified a stage in early French which shows no systematic finite/nonfinite distinction.


[14]     Similar conclusions could be reached for German and Dutch (Wijnen, Bol 1993, p. 247, quoted in Atkinson). (Italics belong to Wijnen & Bol):


            '...there are indications that during the first phase of grammatical development, Dutch (and German) children only use nonfinite verbs...'. This implies that the 'Optional Infinitive' stage may in fact not be the very first stage of syntactic speech and that a prior stage exists which shows No Inflection-a Non-Inflectional stage.


[15]     When we turn to Spanish, however, we see a somewhat more complex picture emerge. In light of the fact that Spanish is a [-Bare stem] language (and thus must assign some affix material to its stem), other syntactic considerations must be applied in determining whether or not there is true functional awareness. For instance, Grinstead (2000) argues that there exists a stage-one in early child Spanish that exclusively manifests null subjects and that a correlation holds between this exclusive 'null-subject stage' and the specific absence of particular affix agreement inflection having to do with Tense and Number. In brief, Grinstead concludes that it is the simultaneous onset of tense and number in the inflection paradigm that ultimately triggers a particular aspect of UG pertaining to the CAse of overt subjects. The particular onsets of such inflection are complicated and potentially undermined by the possibility that simply because a young Spanish child shows affix material (infinitive endings -ir, -ar, -er,) the child may simply be realizing these as parts of the stem due to the [-Bare stem] parameter (i.e., they are rote-learned chunks). If indeed this is the case, other factors must be considered in concluding that functional categories have emerged. A similar conclusion could be reached regarding early Italian verb+affix constructions. For instance, the underlying structure of initial inflections (e.g., mett-o, mett-i, mett-e 'put-1sg/2sg/3sg' (Guasti 1993/1994) may, in fact, be (semi)-rote-learned since there is no syntactic possibility of a bare stem production. In addition to the bare-stem factor, it may be that when such inflectional sequences are strong, with high frequency attached to their production, the clusters may take on stem-like qualities. (In this sense, weak clusters provide better material for paradigmatic formation). The fact that subject-verb agreements are consistent may rather speak to broader morpho-phonetic notions having to do with a kind of grammaticalized lexical incorporation to the extent that verbs ending with -o derive first person, etc.) It is equally important to note that Wexler's OI-stage doesn't manifest in pro-drop languages such as Italian or Spanish. One might ask why this is. It appears that the lack of OIs in pro-drop languages can be traced to properties of the AGR and INFL paradigm systems in the language. For instance, AGR in such pro-drop languages doesn't have the array of -Interp(retable) features that otherwise drive DP-subject projection and movement (via the overt checking of the -Interp subject D-feature, presumably CAse). In this sense, it is understood that AGR in pro-drop languages rather shows more of the semantic-based +Interp F-features (paralleling to a certain degree what one might expect of VP/Thematic relations, under the postulation that Interpretable features are semantic in scope and not part of the formal syntactic numeration). Hence, null subjects of the Italian, Spanish variety are inextricably linked to the rich morphologically agreement system. It is therefore not too unreasonable to assume that aspects of AGR / INFL in pro-drop languages may sustain a certain amount of subject incorporation (on a scale with subject-verb grammaticalization). Such inherent inflections could be considered as having semi-formulaic tendencies, or rather could be viewed as taking on characteristics of incorporation,  similar to how the derived two-morpheme word teach-er was said to be processed as an inherent chunk. English children never delete the derivational affix {-er} even when many such true inflectional affixes are being dropped all around them. English children omit the infinitive 'to' inflection early-on in stage-1 of their production precisely because it constitutes a 'true affix', unincorporated marker (as opposed to other early affix markers such as participle forms {en} and {ing} which seem to behave as non-affixes).[9] Such participle forms maintain 'strong-stem-like' properties and thus may share some manner of incorporation. What is interesting about early Italian data is the fact that AGR inflectional errors are almost non-existent (a hallmark of rote-learned/lexical productions) despite the fact that other affix deletions do manifest at the same stage in question. For instance, what one typically finds at the early stages of Italian syntactic development are (inter alia) errors regarding Number on Noun stems (a possible syntactic bare stem production). What this might suggest is that when the early child data are examined carefully, distinctions regarding the type of inflection can be made, leading to discussion of whether or not a production should be considered as a true stem+affix inflectional production. Italian here may constitute a periphery case, but when taken in conjunction with more agglutinative type languages, the findings support the general idea that inflections for [-bare stem] languages may to varying degrees be incorporating the affix into the stem. If an inflectional affix is routed and incorporated into the stem, than processing access of the affix has the same status as access of the stem-with a kind of lexical incorporation that mimics pie-piping strategies. It would seem that non-clitic, true rule formations of inflectional morphology would not trigger such strategies. In brief, developmental studies show that when one has to use inflection on every form [-Bare-stem parameter], children at early syntactic stages of development seem to project only one inflected form for each word and only produce that inflected form (as the default). This default is presumed to be based on frequency. For instance, it has been reported that children may (i) mark the most salient affix, say number on nouns, (ii) but then still confuse how to properly project number on each noun type for e.g., gender and case. It is suggested herein that the former affix process (i) should be thought of as a kind of lexical incorporation, showing no true rule process, with the latter paradigm process (ii) being viewed as constituting a true rule-driven process.


[16]     Retuning to general questions of theory

            Returning then to general questions of theory, Chomsky (1999) suggests that there is good reason to posit a set of universal features along with principles that make up the Language Faculty. The problem facing the child may be how to build-up (bottom-up) such universal features into a lexicon (see fn. 8). If indeed a bottom-up assumption underpinning the processes of lexical construction is correct (i.e., that the knowledge of morpho-phonology precedes and triggers syntax, much in the spirit of Distributional Morphology, or the Lexical Learning Hypothesis), then there is no reason to suppose that the assembling of features does not follow an incremental process, potentially governed by specific maturation of cognitive complexity. In other words, some features might be acquired before others based on their internal conceptual complexity. For instance, we might hypothesize that the internal complexity of the features [PER(son)] might be more complex than the feature [DEF(initeness)] since DEF may contain some amount of cognitive relevance at LF). (This range of complexity can have large consequences for overt checking. For example, under Guasti and Rizzi's (2001) model of spell-out, it is assumed that differences between overt vs. covert checking directly corresponds to where in the position of the syntactic tree a phrase projects. Those lower positions which are dominated by the VP may include only +Interpretable features, and so may survive without forcing overt movement to a higher projection. Higher positions dominated by IP conversely force such overt movement for the required checking of functional -Interpretable features.)[10] Hence, the agreement of PER as well as the agreement of structural CA might burden an otherwise primitive computational capacity for a young child at our stage-1 of language development.  However, this can't be the whole story since some language groups manifest very early functional categories/features in child development. It seems the cognitive complexity of features must work in tandem with the broader implications of morpho-syntactic typology subsumed under the matrix [+/-INFL]=>[+/-Bare Verb stem]. More concretely, it goes without saying that not many linguists would wish to posit features as containing different saliency values from one language to another. Formal features are part and parcel of a universal language faculty, a C(omputation) built-up on the H(uman) L(anguage) cognitive template (sometimes labeled as CHL). Hence, all properties of feature complexity must be in the first instance universal. It is then in the second instance, where formal features overlap onto [+/-INFL] language typology, that we can ultimately determine whether or not the given language will exhibit early functional projections in child language.


[17]     As a follow up to 15 and 16 above, one of the many things that remain a puzzle to my mind is the following question: Why is it that early child English allows for [-FIN] bare verb stems to occur in Wh-Questions (What he eat?)? This structure has only been reported for Child English and, I am aware, has never been attested in other cross-linguistic child studies. It begs the question: What makes the English bare stem so special in this respect, how does it differ to other language infinitives (e.g., root infinitives), and how does it function in the syntax? Of course, one way to react to such anomalies is to simply reconsider it as a [+FIN] bare verb stem, with only the phonological affix missing.[11] If this is at all possible, then it begs a larger question: Can functional material be stored and represented in two fundamentally different ways? It would seem language typology demands it. Surely, the PF-overt vs. LF-covert movement analogy captures actually this. So, we may go on to assume that such an 'affix-less' verb nevertheless projects inflectional material (T/AGR), at least in light of the fact that there is nominative subject case agreement (He). One means to create a dialogue about the difference is to set up a heuristic procedure. The idea being if we can somehow capture the properties behind English bare stems, we might be better able to understand the overall syntax of (Child) English and throw some light onto how English morphology fundamentally differs to other language groups, at least in this one small respect.


[18]     The two-point heuristic procedure takes the following shape (inquiring into continuity between the child and adult grammars):


                        Question #1: Complexity of Features:

                        Q: Is there Continuity of Features?

• If yes, see question #2. (We take this to mean that T/AGR features project from the very earliest MLU).

• If no, then a Discontinuity model is appropriated.*

* (Since English is a [+Bare Stem] Language, it can simply exhibit bare verbs stripped of its formal features. Nothing hinges on the fact that that it exists within a Wh-question (an otherwise functional projection). What then must be looked at is the pending nature of the Wh-Question (noting the absence of an Auxiliary) not the bare verb, as Wh-operators equally can be expressed at PF without exhibiting the complete range of formal features attributive to CP. I understand the assessment fails to deal with optional projections).


[19]     Typically, the notion of +/-Interp(retable) features comes into play in helping to account for the asymmetric chronological onsets of the relevant features and functional projections. It is suggested that [+Interp] features provide semantic material at LF interface while [-Interp] features must be functionally checked and erased at LF (Chomsky 1995). In line with the arguments in this paper, it could also be suggested that the two types of features likewise get processed and stored in two different regions of the brain-whereby [+Interp] takes on 'strong-stem' properties and [-Interp] takes on 'weak-stem' properties (See 24 below regarding +/-Interp features in child language acquisition.)


[20]                 Question #2: Complexity of Paradigm:

Q: Is there Continuity of the Inflectional Paradigm?

• If yes, morpho-syntactic typology must be considered, triggering the Dual Mechanism Model as a possible means of accounting for the continuity. (We take it here that some amount of feature projection may in all actuality be governed by phonological constraints on the language, such as cliticization, lexical incorporation, etc.)

• If no, Then a discontinuity model is appropriated.


            In sum, we take it that Discontinuity is the Null Hypothesis, and that any evidence to the contrary must be reconsidered in relation to that language's morpho-syntactic typology. The exact role of the typology here will be made clear below.


[21]     Some Data

            Evidence for a Discontinuity model is striking ('negative' to Question #1 18). For instance, Radford and Galasso (1998), Galasso (1999, 2003b) Radford (1999, 2000) provide English data showing that children enter into a 'No Agreement' / 'No Inflection' initial stage-one of acquisition during which they completely omit functional categories and [-Interp] complex features.


[22]     Stage-1: 'No AGReement-No INFLection' (Radford & Galasso 1998)                   


            Possessives:    That Mommy car. Me dolly. No baby bike. Him name.

                                    Have me shoe. *Iwant me bottle. It me.

            Question:        Where Daddy car? This you pen? What him doing?

            Declarative:     Baby have bottle. Car go. Me wet. Me playing. Him dead



            *(Iwant examples are analyzed as formulaic chunking, since no other supportive material providing for a functional analysis of nominative case is found in the relevant stage).


[23]     Stage-2: 'OPtional AGRement -INFLection'*                                                          


            Possessives:    That's Mommy's car. My dolly. Baby's bike. His name.

            Question:        Where's Daddy's car? This is your pen? What (is) he doing?

            Declarative:     Baby has bottle. Car goes. I'm wet. I'm playing. He's dead.



            *(The OI stage (as suggested by Wexler 1994) would simultaneously incorporate both data sets as described in his initial Optional Infinitive stage-1). Radford & Galasso make a clear demarcation between the two stages, with the complete absence of any optional functional projections for their stage-1. For complete data/analyses, see Galasso 2003c).


[24]     Overall, children in this initial stage-one of syntactic development are forced into projecting very limited structure. For instance, (and this is by no means an exhaustive list):

                        (i) Possessive projections, which rely on an AGReement relation with a nominal INFL, must default to an objective case (e.g. my to me);


                        (ii) Verb projections are limited to VPs without INFLection (hence auxiliary-less question and declarative bare verb stems) (e.g. What him doing?, Car go.);


                        (iii) Subjects, which rely on an AGReement with a verbal INFL, must default to having an objective case (e.g., Me wet). Consider the syntactic structures below pairing the two data sets, with stage-one showing no inflectional phrase (IP) agreement.



[25]     Structure: Stage-One / -AGR                                      Structure: Stage-Two /+AGR


            (i) Possessive: * [IP Mummy [I {-agr}-ø] car]          [IP Mummy [I {+agr}'s] car]


                                    [IP Me [I {-agr}] dolly]                     [IP My [I {+agr}] dolly]                               


            (ii) Case:          [IP Him [I {-agr}] dead]                     [IP He [I {+agr}'s] dead]


                                    [IP Me  [I {-agr}] wet]                      [IP I [I {+agr} 'm] wet]



            (iii) Verb:         [IP Baby [I {-agr} have]]...                [IP Baby [I {+agr}has]]...


                                    [IP Car [I {-agr}go -ø]]                      [IP Car [I {+agr} go-es]]


            *(Though Radford and Galasso do label their stage-one structures as IP {-agr} in the 1998 paper, this is mostly notational: see in-note in 26 below).


[26]     Similar findings are born out and widely attested in the literature and are consistent with the general notion that language acquisition involves some sort of incremental feature-building (Radford 2000)-viz., the notion that if language does proceed in an incremental way, then it should be of little surprise that the more robust and primitive aspects of a language should come on-line before more abstract aspects of language-specifically, default {-agr} feature projections attributed to the VP (by default) come on-line before {+agr} projections attributed to the IP. (In-note: Though Radford and Galasso do label their stage-one structures as IP {-agr} in the 1998 paper, this is mostly notational: they are clear in stating that this in no way should undermine the fact that we are indeed dealing with a lexical stage-one, with IP remaining Non-specified {} (and for all intents and purposes, not projecting). Galasso (2003) describes such early stage-one structures as reduced to simple lexical VPs and NPs). This gives us the flavor of saying that a maturational scheduling is behind the chronological ordering of features (much in the spirit of the Brown studies (1973) which sought to show a time-line of affix morpheme development-moving from potentially viable semantic-based participle forms {en}, {ing} through to true rule-based inflectional forms 3PSg {s}, Possessive {s}, Past Tense {ed}. Where the opinions of the cited authors 1,3 tend to diverge, however, is in how to appropriately and accurately describe such apparent lack of child linguistic knowledge. Given this divergence, arguments spring up as to whether or not there is really any claim for discontinuity at all (as based on the research paradigm on offer (Chomsky 1995, 1999)). One might think that the very fact that the child doesn't produce/generate target 'adult-like' grammar at the initial stage of syntax should be enough in of itself to say that discontinuity is an accurate depiction of child language development.


[27]     Well, some of us take maturation more seriously than others. For the sake of concreteness, let's spell this out. The 'strong maturational' theorist believes that there is indisputable evidence for some kind of a biologically determined stage during which functional categories, along with their class of functional words, parameter settings and formal [-Interp] features, are all together absent in the child's grammar. In these terms, 'strong maturation' equates to 'discontinuity'. The 'weak maturational' theorist might be more prone to skirt such biological issues and stake their arguments around interpretations of the theory. For instance, one way around the strong maturational/discontinuity account would be to say that all formal categories/features are available to the child from the very beginning.[12] The apparent discontinuity is then reduced to the mere phonological spell-out of yet un-set parameter settings of categories and/or un-specification of features.


[28]     Hence, there are two schools-of-thought of how such omissions of structure should be explained:


                        (i) Full Competence                => (weak maturation-continuity)

                        (ii) Gradual Competence         => (strong maturation-discontinuity)


            Full Competency in this respect would include any developmental model which credits the very young child with at least knowing the functional projection notwithstanding the fact that the features of the projections can go unspecified or be phonologically null (cf. Wexler's initial OI-stage 1994).


            Gradual Competency in this respect would include any developmental model which holds off crediting the very young child with knowing any functional projection that doesn't at least make itself phonological present in the form of functional categorical words (Case/Pronouns, Auxiliaries) (cf. Radford & Galasso's initial No-INFL stage 1998).


[29]     Full competence hypotheses state that all functional categories/features are present in the child's linguistic system (this equates to a child-to-adult continuity). The child's otherwise non-target grammar is thus the result of un-specification of features that are nonetheless present in the child's phrase structure. In other words, the child's otherwise lexical non-functional stage-1 of grammatical development is thought of as maintaining the full-fledge IP>VP phrase structure for typical declarative sentences, non-specification of features notwithstanding, hence, the early German and French data cited above. In English however, the child may not spell-out the Phonological Form of articulation (at PF) of such features-for instance, the dual AGR(eement)/T(ense) feature (which triggers the inflectional affix {-s} for 3person/singular/present) on the main finite verb goes un-specified and therefore doesn't project. In this sense, a non-inflected bare verb-stem surfaces as the default: e.g., (The) baby sleep. What this assumption basically claims is that a child may in fact be producing functional (affix) material all the while despite the fact that such material is phonologically silent (following assumptions laid out in Halle and Marantz 1993). Recall, such a treatment was suggested regarding Bare verb stems which show subject nominative case in embedded Wh-Questions 17. This very real possibility that functional categories/features can be present though phonologically silent changes the entire landscape of how maturational theories of language acquisition can be put to the test. The very idea that +affix material can be present in a grammar without actually being spelled-out in the phonology requires developmental linguists to revisit their discontinuity theories to the extend that newer models need to be devised in order to establish whether or not a child at the earliest MLU stage of development has functional grammar.


[30]     A new condition for a non-functional stage-1

            The argument for potential underspecification of features can be naturally expanded to suggest that there are indeed two ways in which the brain can symbolically represent morpho-syntactic material (The DMM)-either via an overt PF channeling, or via a covert LF channeling. This will be later discussed in the following sections on typology. In any event, what I am on about here is that the two approaches (continuity vs. discontinuity) can converge to express a larger idea: namely, children may have an alternative option of symbolically representing functional material, but that this option is only relevant to the +/-specification of affix material in general. In other words, we have now conditioned any strong maturational account and relegated it to a stage that describes the complete absence of functional material, but only insofar as it is typically expressed in whole words (such as the Pronouns (case) AUXiliaries (movement), etc.), and not affix and/or clitic constructs . Given a child now has a parameter option of projection affix material in two ways, any attempt to define a non-functional stage solely based on the absence of affix material without looking into other paradigms has become considerable weakened. (If anything, the option speaks to a pre-parameterization stage, which, by the way, would also support a strong maturational hypothesis). Having leveled this new condition for our non-functional stage-one, it must be said that Radford & Galasso's Lexical stage-1 remains upheld, albeit now not by the fact that affix inflections are absent (as their absence at PF/performance may not provide evidence for the absence at LF/competence), but rather the no-functional stage remains upheld rather due to the lack of other functional material such as CAse and AUX. as attested in the data. Consider the two analyses of the verb's inflectional material below (with 31 showing a common analysis).



[31]     Full Competence Phrase: Features spell-out for target grammar


                                        Imax                                 He...sleep-s.                  



                       sleepi  [+Agr {-s}]            |                  [Agr] features present and specified                                      

                                      [+T]                       |


                                       => sleep-s








[32]     Full Competence Phrase: Features are present but un-specified:

            (Bare verb stem by default)


                                        Imax                                 * He... sleep-ø.                                               



                                     sleepi     [-Agr {ø}]  |                  [Agr] features present but not specified.                                                                   

                                             [-T]                      |


                        => sleep-ø      




[33]     Gradual Competence Phrase: Features not present

            (Bare verb stem by default)


                                      Vmax                           * Him... sleep.




                         => sleep-ø                              [Agr] feature not present.




            * (The trees above show AGR working in tandem with T. It is in this sense that the new condition as expressed in [30] holds regarding affixes (in this case, the Agr/T-affix). It is rather the relation of AGR/CAse that now becomes central in identifying a no-functional stage. Recall our data in 21: there are no attested data of productive Nominative Case. It is assumed under Schtze & Wexler's (1996) model that the T/AGR work together, though see Galasso 1999 (p. 94-5) for a different treatment showing the affix {-s} exclusively to mark Tense, whereas the full agreement paradigm throughout goes unmarked [-ø] due to the nature of an invisible agreement assigning mechanism in English)


[34]     Regarding the Gradual Development Hypothesis, the main idea behind the child's deficient grammar is based on the complete absence of formal [Agr] / [-Interp] features and the subsequent lack of functional categories IP/(CP). [Agr] / [-Interp] features are those formal features such as CAse, PERson, Tense and other AGReement relations which are considered to contribute no substantive semantic material toward the overall computational system (the locus of Logical Form).






[35]     Conclusion: Inflections and Typology

            'Modular-complex'(English, Italian) vs. 'Modular-simple'(Chinese, Hungarian)


            Let's turn to our closing remarking on typology. Languages differ in whether or not they are analytic, agglutinative, or synthetic. A finer-grained treatment of this classic typology, however, shows that while the first two types maintain a rather modular-simple representation of functional, inflectional material, the latter may show a modular-complex representation. In this sense, inflection is tied to typology. In this final section, we make explicit what we mean by this modular parameter.


[36]     In addition to the classic typology stated above, past typological studies have shown (e.g., Hawkins, 1986; Comrie, 1987) that the three language types actually can collapse under a dual-typology based on semantic vs. syntactic/grammatical structure of the language. More concretely, a scalar model showing a continuum from syntactic to semantic structure can be devised to help define the way a given language works as a communicative system. The continuum demonstrates the competing elements a language faces-namely, how does a language balance the needs to communicate effectively (semantic-based) with the needs to communicate efficiently (syntactic/grammatical-based).




                        Modular-Simple                                               Modular-complex

            INFL                Chinese     Hungarian    Hebrew    English   Italian    Latin                        -/+ INFL

                        {----------------|--------------- --|------------------|----------------}

                        effective/semantic                                            syntactic/efficient

            [+ Lexical Incorporation]                                              [- Lexical incorporation]



            The former deals with semantic properties of a language since it involves the content of speech (per se), while the latter involves crucial issues of syntax, since it is syntax that allows the language system to evolve from complex to simple, a move in keeping with all biological systems: (the need to economize).



[37]     The Proposal

            We believe this dual-typology of language, as based upon transparency of semantics vs. syntax (termed modular-simple vs. modular-complex), more-or-less reflects the two fundamental ways in which the human brain is constrained in the structuring, storing and projecting of linguistic material (The Dual Mechanism Model). Similar characteristics of this proposal have been advanced in the literature (regarding verb movement type) which suggests that overt subject languages (such as English, French) use 'adjoined-affix' morphology as opposed to 'head/stem-affix' morphology as seen in covert subject languages (such as Spanish, Italian).


            We take it that semantic transparent (modular-simple) language types, which seek to preserve the optimal level of meaning in language, ultimately employ more of the temporal-lobe regions of the brain in constructing their grammars. Modular-simply language types thus organize grammatical relations as defined by thematic/semantic roles. This leads such languages toward two extreme ends of the continuum-either they show pervasive inflectional marking (based on a strict one-to-one-morpho-syntactic mapping onto semantic roles), or they go without inflection all together. The semantic continuum thus looks like the following:


[38]     The Semantic Continuum (modular-simple):

            (i) Extreme Markers.  This language system is designed around extremely high levels of lexically embedded morpho-syntactic markers, dealing with a wide range of semantic/grammatical relations-e.g., topic, case, temporal, locative, variable word order, etc.--agglutinative languages follow this course of design...



            (ii) No Markers.          This language system is designed around an almost complete absence of such markers-analytic languages like Mandarin Chinese. Both language types can be similarly characterized by their high levels of lexical incorporation of such markers-'a temporal-lobe design'.


            Conversely, we take it that syntactic and thus grammaticization-based languages seek to preserve efficiency in ways that collapse semantic roles in a variety of way (prone to complexity). (This 'complex-to-simple' continuum can be seen in diachronic language change, respectively, from Latin to French, from Sanskrit to Hindi, from Old English to Modern English, etc.). The syntactic continuum looks like the following:


[39]     The Syntactic Continuum (Modular-complex)

            (i) Rich Inflection.                    This language system is designed around a stronger paradigm of inflections, though such inflections are minimized and semantically deflated since they no longer have real antecedents to semantic roles-inflectional languages like Spanish, Italian...



            (ii) Impoverished Inflection.    This language system is design around a weaker paradigm of inflections-inflectional languages like English, French.


[40]     Modular-Complex.      It may be that English children initially assume their target language to be simple, or at least paradigm consistent (the default assumption). Accordingly, children in their initial stages of syntactic development, may wrongly assume (and thus misanalyze) that many of the 'slight' imperfections in their language are in fact perfections. In other words, children may be perfect language learners in the sense that they are perfectionist who seek perfection in the imperfect input they receive (Radford 2000). This brings up one aspect of complexity, the competing nature of syntax over semantics. The fact that language acquisition involves the incremental construction of features from simple to complex (from +Interpretable/semantic to -Interpretable/syntactic), does suggests that such mapping is correlated to (maturational) brain development. The incremental nature of syntactic development begins with the VP/Thematic structure (reported to belonging to the more primitive, temporal-lobe region of the brain), and advances outward to the formal phrase projections of IP/CP (belonging to the frontal-lobe).


[41]     Consider the fact that, initially, young English children wrongly analyze irregular verbs as (non-past) bare verb stems. Hence, such over-regularizations as wented, boughted, thoughted should not be considered as double past markings. The fact that the early treatment of irregulars doesn't encode for tense suggest that the child first stores the irregular verb as a non-modular strong-stem. (Hence, inflectional over-regularization in Early Child English (Marcus et al. 1992) may be the result of a child wrongly assuming a 'modular-simple' setting over a 'complex' setting.) Young English children generate a number of such syntactic/inflectional errors early on in their development, all of which point to this mis-guided parameter setting: e.g., double tense markers as in Aux constructions I didn't saw/had/played the toy, suggesting that the Aux lacks a tense marker, Case, Agreement and Tense deletions as in Him do it may be due to weak relevant paradigms, etc. Also reported above, children may optional project either way and thus mix the two settings, as when they start out speaking bare verb stems in otherwise functional projections (What he eat?). These examples, when taken as a whole, demonstrate, two main points: (i) the learning burden imposed by such imperfect irregular formations, and (ii) that the processing of paradigmatic functional material may be stored and projected in alternative ways (depending on the cognitive maturational schedule of language development). This duality is what is ultimately responsible for a two-stage Lexical vs. Functional development of grammar. More specifically, the claim here suggests that when proper functional material projects in the way of an inflectional affix, it does so by way of a storage capacity that treats stems and affixes in an entirely different manner, as the two elements, stem+affix, are stored in entirely different parts of the brain. When the child's brain is not yet prepared to handle such (frontal-lobe) activity, the linguistic formation may fall back on the rather default handling of material indicative of more semantically-based structuring (temporal-lobe). The proposal is that proper affixes are stored in the frontal-lobe regions of the brain, unconnected to the stem, which is itself stored in the temporal, motor-strip regions of the brain. Modula-complex languages, however, must also adhere to an additional parameter which determines whether or not the language is richly inflected (and thus [-Bare-stem], or weakly inflected (and thus +Bare-stem). It is in fact this wide range of detachment of stem and inflectional affix that procures the computational processes as handled by the frontal lobe, otherwise, as with the other two typologies, a single processing mechanism correlating to the temporal-lobe suffices. When these two parameters are taken into account, a picture emerges as to how the development of child functional grammar should manifest:


[42]     (i) Modular-complex / -INFL.             These languages (English, French) should demonstrate a initial stage-one of syntactic development where functional inflections go un-projected, as attested in English/French child language.


            (ii) Modular-complex / +INFL.           These languages (e.g., Spanish, Italian) should demonstrate an initial stage-one of syntactic development where functional inflections project--at least partially and at times presumably incorrect.


            (iii) Modular-simple / +INFL. These languages are the agglutinative types with highly regular inflections (Hungarian, Turkish, Russian, Japanese).  The inflections are not only highly regular but also correlate to a one-to-one correspondence in meaning (one morpheme, one meaning). Consider the Turkish word odalarimdan ('from my rooms') where lar -im -dan are morphemes expressing one distinct category. Such corresponding could be similarly viewed as Derivational morphology in a certain respect since each added morpheme can change the stem meaning. Young children speaking these languages do not typically pass through a non-inflectional stage, since the inflections are housed and encoded within the stem. In other words, young children speaking Russian or Hungarian don't seem to follow the traditional benchmarks or morphological development as compared to their synthetic language counterparts. (A good illustration is the case of Japanese post-positions and locative markers which tend to heavily rely on the substantive/semantic properties related to the stem. Such markers cannot go deleted in early Japanese syntax, unlike other non-substantive Japanese INFL markers which do (nominative/accusative Case  -wa, -ga, -o.) 


            (iv) Modular-simple / -INFL.              These languages are the pure analytical languages such as Mandarin Chinese which tend to 'unpack' the little inflectional morphology they have and established otherwise potential morphological markers as part and parcel of the stem-e.g., the English paradigm of First Person, Subject, Plural which is 'morphologically packed' in the pronoun we (and subsumes all markers) would be expressed in Mandarin as three word boundaries: #[=one person] + #[=many of].



[43]     Brain-to-language processing and a maturational story for modular complex languages.

            Regarding the brain, I feel that it eventually won't take much to whip up a 'brain to language-processing' mapping analogy that rivals the best of syntactic theories (pertaining to brain processing and phrase structure). Insofar as we will eventually be able to tease apart other non-linguistic processes that go on in the brain when language is generated, I am confident a whole new approach to syntactic theory is soon to be on the drawing board. I show optimism here because of the great strides that have been made in neuroimaging techniques. At the moment, brain scans such as ERPs,  fMRI, PETs don't exclusively show language generation, but is rather mired in myriad non-linguistic factors-side-effects that, if not teased apart from the actual language stimuli, would also go into the equation confusing the target language stimuli and observed brain area activity. What we would like is a potential scan that represents the steps of pure language (without blurring outside noise such as motor-skill processing for phonology, decision making, criteria tasks such as word-to-semantic mappings, other engaged thinking, even day-dreaming). The request is for a filtered 'language-task' ERP. It's a tall order to fill. Recently new such scans have emerged, such as the MEG (Magnetoencephalography). The MEG works like the ERP scan in that neural events create the signal, an electrical current which flows down the dendrites of specific neurons that are active in the brain during the language task. This means that a strict one-to-one mapping may be available in representing the actual steps as language unfolds. Thus far, early studies show that verb processing indeed takes a dual-track approach:


                        (i) The first quarter second:    The Temporal-lobe (TL) parts of the brain are active with the search of lexical stems and irregular verbs. (As pointed out in the DMM, word stems and irregular verbs are stored and retrieved in associative memory). We extend this 'low-level' processing to incorporate the Verb Phrase (VP) as well since both lexical words and VPs would involve thematic/semantic relations Hence, with this stage frozen as a 'snap-shot', we can theorize that children at the VP stage-one of syntactic development would only show TL activity with regards to MEG scans. (Wakefield and Wilcox (1995 p. 644), in support of Radford's (1990) maturational theory, believe that the TL and the LFT are initially unconnected in the first stages of language acquisition (Radford's VP stage-one). When set in correlation to the DMM, we view this stage absence of overt agreement/inflection and other functional material to be motivated by such brain computation deficits. As stated above, the specific deficits here would be due to a lack of early neurological myelination involved in linking the two areas of the brain. Since the FTL is not yet on-line in stage-one of language development, all generated language is seen as projecting from prosaic VP structures at TL).


By extension, we suggest that the acquisition of functional projections is triggered by the LFT being turned 'on' (analogous to a parameter setting) thus triggering the acquisition of functional morphology. In this sense, a two-prong conclusion can be reached stating: while (i) we firmly believe that knowledge of morpho-phonology precedes and triggers syntax, (ii) such knowledge comes to the child via the computational maturation of that part of the brain that provides access to that specific knowledge in the first place.


                        By extension, we suggest children know that inflected forms are not lexical since inflected forms are conceptualized and generated in a separate mode of processing, disassociated from lexical stems. Such an analysis would go along way in supporting the independent work carried out by Elman and Newport's 'Less-is-more Hypothesis' by providing a mechanism by which an account for the 'starting small' can be made. Hence, we assume children start out without rules and paradigms.[13] Only later are they said to construct their paradigms incrementally, one feature at a time, given the onset of LFT activity. It may be however that such inflectional languages which start out 'small' may otherwise use mechanisms available in other non-INFL languages (though still provided by UG) to mark notions of T/AGR. (See Hyams (1996) for a semantic treatments of otherwise null INFL markers.).


                        (ii) A tenth of a second later:   The left/frontal-lobe (LFL) then becomes active with the pursuit of the regular verb functional affix (as pointed out by the DMM, affixes are rule-based). We extend this 'high-level' processing to incorporate the Inflectional Phrase (IP) as well since both affix formations and IPs involve abstract/rule-based relations. Hence, we would theorize that SLI subjects who show commission of functional errors (as discussed in 11 and in contrast to children in the 'no-functional' stage who show 'omission' of errors) would show LFL activity with regards to the MEG scans. Though word processing seems to be the order of the day, phrase processing is following right behind and gaining interest. As mentioned, if we can extend the lexical stem+affix split, as understood in the DMM, to that of the qualitative nature of different phrase types (IP vs. VP), then an even more robust theory of the DMM can be realized.



[44]     Syntactic tree mapping inflectional neuroimaging


            Syntactic Tree:                        Neuroimaging:



                              subj           X(P)                => Numeration of V @ LFL


                                         INFL       V(P)       => V prior to numeration @ TL



            INFL = [] when weak-covert  movement of the verb stem into X.

            INFL = [affix] when strong-overt movement of the verb stem into X.


            X = storage capacity #2-rule-based

            V = storage capacity #1-associative


[45]     Weak/Covert movement: Modern English (single storage)                           


                                    Sentence          (examples taken from Uriagereka 2000 p. 128).


                              subj             X => [-affix]            


                                         INFL       VP         


                                                    V           N              

                                                   see          her



[46]     Strong/Overt movement: Middle English




                              subj           X                   


                                         INFL        VP        


                                                    V           N              

                                                  se-is         hir                               




[47]     Merge V to INFL/X:




                   Verb + INFL      VP        





 (Merge: Verb-stem {se} 'pied-piping' to INFL since the affix {-is} cannot stand alone at PF).


[48]     A Case of Strong Inflection: South-Western English INFL Paradigm


            It seems that some varieties of English opt for a 'rule-based' storage capacity via a parameter setting. In stark contrast to Standard English, consider the rich inflectional paradigm for a variety of English spoken in South-Western England (Cheshire 1989, discussed in Radford 1997 p. 79).



            Strong Tense/Agr features                              Sentence

            I loves, You loves, He/She loves                                                       

            We loves, You loves, They loves                subj          X => [+affix]    


                                                                                         INFL      VP          




[49]     Merge V to INFL/X:




                   Verb + INFL      VP        







[50]     There may be a maturational story behind all of this. How is it that some language types split-off the family tree and began taking on higher doses of abstract inflection? Perhaps 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny' here in the sense that languages are (i) born from a Saussurean 'form-to-meaning' iconic system,  (ii) then evolve into complex, less economical paradigmatic systems, (iii) only later to return to reduced paradigmatic systems. (The latter two stages are witnessed here to the extent that a shift has occurred from Middle English being strongly-inflected to Modern English being weakly-inflected). If so, then some languages may be simply lagging behind others on this evolutionary revolving door of 'simple-to-complex' inflectional typology. Of course, no one wants to claim that the brains of speakers of 'modular-complex' languages have somehow advanced over the others. The differences should  rather be thought of as a sort of compensatory flow-sheet in that the brain is equipped to handle info in two fundamentally different ways-no one way is better than the other, there are different pay-offs (differing advantages to disadvantage). For example, no one wishes to claim that Chinese speakers have very little formal abstraction ability because their language demonstrates very little in the way of inflection. Rather, what should be said is that the language system itself has come to a nice equilibrium of sorts between the amount of abstraction that ought to be carried out (efficiency), which may be otherwise provided by the context in any account, and the amount of lexical storage required for communication without otherwise burdening the storage capacity (effectiveness). It is not clear, but Chinese may in fact require higher-levels of associative memory due to its internal structure. (All this is speculation at best; however, we can refer back to the footnote (6) on Newport's hunch that associative storage capacity ultimately is responsible for the second capacity of abstraction). Noting such differences between, say, Spanish (with high amounts of inflection) and Chinese (with low to zero amounts of inflection), it needs to be understood that both languages have representations of functional categories (i.e., both have basically the same inflectional systems)-it is just that Spanish uses words and morphemes to represent these categories (=LFT storage), while Chinese does not. Instead, Chinese determines the presence of functional items such as Comp, Tense, Agreement via lexical context (=TL storage). Ultimately, it may be that the proposed parameterization leading to the typology amounts to little more than the following...


                        '[T]here is evidence that [the] languages have basically the same inflectional systems, differing only in the way formal elements are accessed by the part of the computational procedure that provides instructions to articulatory perceptual organs. The mental computation seems otherwise identical, yielding indirect effects of inflectional structure that are observable, even if the inflections themselves are not heard in speech. That may well be the basis of language variation, in large measure' (Chomsky 2000. p.120)        




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[1]  See Clahsen et al. (2001). Ullman et al. (1997) suggest apparent processing distinctions reflect a Language/Neural Dissociation between Declarative (memory) and Procedural (rule) systems.


[2] Elements of this dual typology could be similarly interpreted along more traditional lines of typology-namely, 'Semantic Transparent' vs. 'Grammaticization'-type languages (Hawkins 1986, Comrie 1987).  Some attempts have been made to tease apart the two language types by using PET, and fMRI brain scans. Regarding some of these pioneering studies, there are early signs suggesting that the two language types may emphasize different parts of the brain for storage and retrieval tasks (typically equating to the Left-Frontal-Lobe (LFL) as the rule-based processing area vs. the Temporal-Lobe (TL) for frequency-based storage).  Much more study needs to be done here however. But certainly, the idea that brain scan representations may come to model and map linguistic structure, akin to contemporary syntactic tree-diagramming, is an intriguing  possibility. See Rodriguez-Fornells et al. 2002, Ullman et al. 1997, Posner & Raichle 1994, for brain imagining studies.  See Neville et al. 1991, Hagoort et al. 1993 for research showing distinctive electro-physiological responses to syntactic vs. semantic violations. See Wakefield and Wilcox (1994) for a theoretical model of brain maturation and language acquisition. See Pinker (1999 pp. 264-268), Alegre & Gordon (1999), Clahsen et al. (2003) for general discussion.



[3] Pinker (1999: 130) suggests that the proposed dual-track along with the single-track processing mode may be connected by an 'inhibitory link' by which the activation of a stored whole-word gradually slows down and ultimately turns off the rule. Strong-stem language types, which manifest very high whole-word frequency effects, might then be said to turn off the rule-based storage capacity.  English irregular verbs and participle forms {-en} and {-ing} which turn off the rule-based storage could be thought of as maintaining 'strong-stem-like' properties. Posner et al. (p. 125-6) have discovered that PET language processing effects differ when the subject performs repetitive practice of a language task (see also fn 11). They claim practice turns off rule-based frontal-lobe processing and triggers areas in the Insular Cortex (temporal-lobe) region of the brain. Based on such findings, they suggest the brain has 'two pathways' for performing language generation tasks: (i) one used for automatic responses that were learned previously, and (ii) one used for unlearned, but rule-based responses.



[4] There is some thinking along these lines to suggest that the nature of the shift (or turning off) between the two processing storage capacities could be correlated to a critical mass of vocabulary storage. For instance, Marchman & Bates (1994) argue that children only begin to perform 'weak-stem' regular verb inflections once a critical mass of vocabulary has been reached showing a (weak-stem) regular to (strong-stem) irregular proportion of 55% to 45%. Likewise, Robinson & Mervis (1998) find similar correlates with onset of inflection to retardation of lexical growth. To my mind, there could be two opposing accounts of this: (i) that the eventual acquisition of a paradigm places a burden on the lexical memory apparatus thus triggering an additional storage capacity in the frontal lobe region of brain (a paradigm-to-memory relation), or conversely, (ii) that it is in fact a high memory capacity in the first place the forces the additional rule-based storage capacity (a memory-to-paradigm relation). (See Newport's 'Less-is-More Hypothesis' for comments along this line of reasoning, along with subsequent work done by Jeff Elman on connectionism). In the latter view, high memory spawns rule-based paradigmatic function. Having said this, we must be clear here and state that we are in no way suggesting that 'strong-stem' language types suffer from a memory deficit which allows the language to maintain a single storage capacity. The idea is rather that inflectional modularity can be handled in two ways, depending on the nature of how the stem+affix enters into a processing and storage configuration.


[5]  See also Paper no. 2 of 'A Research Statement: Towards a Converging Theories Model of Child Language Acquisition: Continuing Discontinuity' (Galasso 2003b).


[6]  Another way to analyze this within the Principles and Parameters Theory (Chomsky 1981, and later extended in the Minimalist  Program, Chomsky 1995) would be to say that this 'knowledge of morpho-phonology' is akin to the kind of innate knowledge attributed to the invariant principles of UG, while the 'triggering of syntax' is more akin to variant parameter setting. In fact, both top-down and bottom up strategies eventually have to be involved: top-down for language typology which drives awareness in constructing an inflectional paradigm, bottom-up for constructing actual features in lexical items.



[7] A good example of which could be 'clitic affixation' in the case of can't/shouldn't/needn't/etc. where the negative {n't} clitic attaches to the stem and then proceeds to be processed as part of the stem. The following examples only show licit movement of the neg clitic {n't} particle across IP and into CP, and never the negation stem {not}-[Shouldn't] you finish your exam? *Should you [n't] finish your exams, *Should not you finish your exams? Such words that are derived at by clitic formation have been argued as being processed as morpho-phonological chunks. Also, derivational morphology which has some similarity to lexical semantics, likewise has been reported has maintaining 'stem-like' properties (see Anderson 1992: 184-5, Clahsen et al. 2001: 9).



[8] Both languages appear to be described as weakly inflected [-INFL] like English which help define their 'non-pro-drop' status. Both French and German however, unlike English, are subject to overt syntactic finite verb movement at PF (V2 in German, and Verb IP-insertion in French).


[9] For example, Bloom et al. (1980) note that early English production of [V+ing] was relegated to 'activity' verbs and was not initially generated on the full class of verbs. This suggests that early on at stage-1 children may process such inflections as a kind of lexical/semantic marker (data from Brown: 1973). In other studies, Santelmann & Jusczyk (1998) show that very young children can track dependency of the [V+ing] only up to limited syllabic separation (i.e., there is an Adjacency condition to such early [V+ing] constructs which point to semi-formulaic tendency). Such [V+ing] or [V+en] constructs may be based on high frequency or have a high repetitive nature. In addition, as uncovered by frequency effects obtained in lexical decision tasks, high frequency may even affect otherwise rule-based constructions: Clahsen et al. (2003 p. 30) report that high frequency [verb+ed] constructs such as the verb walked may actually incorporate as a non-decomposed chunk and be stored/processed as a lexical subentry to the base form walk in the same way in which the irregular verb drank forms a subentry to drink. By contrast, the low frequency stalked showed no such subentry of stalk. Hence, high frequency of inflection may spawn memory versions.


[10] For discussion and data analysis of the early appearance of a 'default' DP containing a singular [+Interp] feature [+Def] in early child English grammar, see Galasso 2003c p.98). In brief, the discussion consists of the idea that lower syntactic positions dominated by VP may house +Interp features only and thus are not obliged to force movement of the head into a checking domain of a higher functional phrase (such as IP/AGRP). In this sense, Galasso (1999/2003c) treats the early emergence of DPs, which evidence no other signs of functional material, as a lower VP-dominated DP-projection with the sole semantic feature spell-out of [+Def] maintaining accusative/objective case by default. Examples of VP-dominated by VP would show DPs manifesting +Interp features only: e.g Him kick [VP/DP the ball] = [VP [/DP The ball] [V go]].



[11]  Guasti and Rizzi (2002) suggest that indeed such bare stems are finite forms missing the {-s}, as indicated by the child sentence He don't hear me' (Sarah 3;5) which shows both NOM Case Agreement and potential Tense (only the Person feature is missing). However, if this is the case, it may ultimately throw the whole notion of phono-morphology into doubt, since in this view, it becomes impossible to tell whether or not a stem+affix actually correlates to any real morphological feature representation in the child's grammar: If a [-FIN] stem shows Finiteness, what then prevents the potential and unwanted reading of a [+FIN] stem+affix showing no such finiteness?  However, it also must be said that Meisel suggests just this when he posits that in Child German, it is the third person that activates the verbal paradigm and not the first and second person features.


[12]  There is an interpretation that all functional categories and features are determined by UG and thus are universal: under this view, it is only their settings and specifications that must then be determined by the language input. The 'strong maturational' interpretation would view functional categories and features to be more tethered to maturational factors pertaining to the child's brain development (akin to a biological basis of language development).

[13]  There is always a tempting aspect of the 'Converging Theories Model' to collapse and converge the 'bottom-up' cognitive Constructivist version of a stage-1 as based on high-frequency learning, slot-frame sequencing, lexical incorporation (cf. Tomasello 2000, Pine, Lieven and Rowland 1998) with that of the 'top-down' syntactic Generative version of the same stage-1 data (cf. Radford 1990, Radford and Galasso (1998), since both models descriptively overlap and call for an identical stage-1 void of any functional morphology. It may be possible that the DMM could converge the two positions in interesting ways as based on maturational brain development. For instance, and irrespective of whether or not the DMM is viable, children may simply be relying on the high frequency of lexical stems (in contrast to the consistent frequency of affixes) to determine the categorical distinction of lexical vs. function morphology. (A potential DMM 'Convergence' in this sense might mean that both Generativists' and Constructivists' hypotheses are basically correct for the initial stages of language acquisition, since both view the child's language deficit in maturational terms).