The readings listed below are the foundation of this course. Where available, journal article abstracts from PubMed (an online database providing access to citations from biomedical literature) are included.

Readings by Topic

Readings: Lightfoot, chapters 1 and 2. Atkinson, chapter 1.

Readings: Newport, Gleitman, Gleitman (1979), Wexler and Culicover (1980), pp. 60-78.

Principles And Parameters: X-Bar Theory, Theta Roles Phrase Structure
Readings: Cowper (1992), chapters 1-4.

Principles And Parameters Continued: Including Verb Movement
Readings: Cowper (1992), chapters 1-4. Also, sections 8.3-8.4 (pp. 132-139).

Early Child Clause Structure, Verb Movement And Inflection
Readings: Wexler (1994).

Verb Second Phenomena In Early Development
Readings: Poeppel and Wexler (1993).

Case And Agreement In Syntax And Development
Readings: Cowper, chapter 6, Babyonyshev.

Introduction To Second Language Acquisition, And Its Differences From First Language Acquisition
Readings: White (1989, chapter 2) and Prevost and White (1999).

Case, Agreement And Morphology In Development And Hypotheses About Oi Stage
Readings: Schütze and Wexler (1996).

Null Subjects And Parameter-Setting
Readings: Cowper, chapter 10, Concentrating On 10.9, Hyams (1987).

Null Subjects In Child English: A Grammatical Phenomenon?
Readings: Bloom (1991), Hyams and Wexler (1993).

Null Subjects And The Oi Stage
Readings: Bromberg and Wexler (1995), Phillips (1995).

Specific Language Impairment
Readings: Rice and Wexler.

Binding Theory, Syntax, Parameters, The Subset Principle And Learning
Readings: Cowper (1992), chapter 10; Wexler and Manzini (1987).

Binding Theory: Reflexives And Pronouns In Development
Readings: Chien and Wexler (1990).

Second Language Acquisition And Its Relation To L1.Maturation And The Critical Period Hypothesis
Readings: Haznedar and Schwartz (1997), Borer and Wexler (1987), first section on concept of maturation, Johnson and Newport (1989).

Controversies In Binding Theory, Development, Determiners And The Theory Of Reference
Readings: Grimshaw and Rosen (1990); Karmiloff-Smith.

Theories Of Parameter-Setting
Readings: Gibson and Wexler (1995).

Argument-Chains In Syntax And Development -- Passives
Readings: Cowper (1992), chapters 5 and 8; Borer and Wexler (1987).

More Argument Chains In Development: Unaccusatives In Russian
Readings: Babyonyshev et al. (2001).


Atkinson, Martin. Children's Syntax: An Introduction to Principles and Parameters Theory. Oxford, UK and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992, chapter 1.

Babyonyshev, Maria. "Acquisition of the Russian Case System." In Papers on case & agreement 11, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 19. Edited by C. Phillips. 1993, pp. 1-43.

Babyonyshev, Maria et al. (Ross.) The Maturation of Grammatical Principles: Evidence from Russian Unaccusatives.

Bloom, Paul. "Subjectless Sentences in Child Language." Linguistic Inquiry 21, no. 4 (1990): 491-504.

Borer, Hagit, and Kenneth Wexler. "The Maturation of Syntax." In Parameter Setting. Edited by Roeper and Williams. 1987, pp. 123-172.

Bromberg, Hilary Sara, and Kenneth Wexler. "Null Subjects in Child Wh-Questions." MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 26. 1995, pp. 221-247.

Chien, Yu-Chin, and Kenneth Wexler. "Children's Knowledge of Locality Conditions in Binding as Evidence for the Modularity of Syntax and Pragmatics." Language Acquisition 1(3) (1990): 225-295.

Cowper, Elizabeth A. A Concise Introduction to Syntactic Theory: The Government-Binding Approach. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1992, chapter 1-6, 8, 10.

Gibson, Edward, and Kenneth Wexler. "Triggers." Linguistic Inquiry 25, no. 3 (1994): 407-454.

Gleitman, Lila. "The Structural Sources of Verb Meanings." Language Acquisition 1(1) (1990): 3-55.

Grimshaw, Jan, and Sara Thomas Rosen. "Knowledge and Obedience: The Developmental Status of the Binding Theory." Linguistic Inquiry 21, no. 2 (1990): 187-222.

Haznedar, Belma and Bonnie D. Schwartz. "Are there Optional Infinitives in child L2 acquisition?" BUCLD 2 Proceedings 1 (1997): 257-268.

Hyarns, Nina. "The Theory of Parameter and Syntactic Development." In Parameter Setting. Edited by Roeper and Williams. 1987, pp. 1-22.

Hyams, Nina, and Ken Wexler. "On the Grammatical Basis of Null Subjects in Child Language." Linguistic Inquiry 24, no. 3 (1993): 421-459.

Johnson, Jacqueline S., and Elissa L. Newport. "Critical Period Effects in Second Language Learning: The Influence of Maturational State on the Acquisition of English as a Second Language." Cognitive Psychology 21 (1989): 60-99.

PubMed abstract: Lenneberg (1967) hypothesized that language could be acquired only within a critical period, extending from early infancy until puberty. In its basic form, the critical period hypothesis need only have consequences for first language acquisition. Nevertheless, it is essential to our understanding of the nature of the hypothesized critical period to determine whether or not it extends as well to second language acquisition. If so, it should be the case that young children are better second language learners than adults and should consequently reach higher levels of final proficiency in the second language. This prediction was tested by comparing the English proficiency attained by 46 native Korean or Chinese speakers who had arrived in the United States between the ages of 3 and 39, and who had lived in the United States between 3 and 26 years by the time of testing. These subjects were tested on a wide variety of structures of English grammar, using a grammaticality judgment task. Both correlational and t-test analyses demonstrated a clear and strong advantage for earlier arrivals over the later arrivals. Test performance was linearly related to age of arrival up to puberty; after puberty, performance was low but highly variable and unrelated to age of arrival. This age effect was shown not to be an inadvertent result of differences in amount of experience with English, motivation, self-consciousness, or American identification. The effect also appeared on every grammatical structure tested, although the structures varied markedly in the degree to which they were well mastered by later learners. The results support the conclusion that a critical period for language acquisition extends its effects to second language acquisition.

Karmiloff-Smith, Annette. "The Grammatical Marking of Thematic Structure in the Development of Language Production." In The Child's Construction of Language. Edited by W. Deutsch. London: Academic Press, 1981, pp. 121-147.

Lightfoot, David. The Language Lottery: Toward a Biology of Grammars. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982, chapters 1 and 2.

Newport, Elissa L., Henry Gleitman, and Lila A. Gleitman. "Mother, I'd rather do it myself: some effects and non-effects of maternal speech style." In Talking to Children: Language input and acquisition. Edited by Snow and Ferguson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp. 109-149.

Phillips, Colin. "Syntax at Age Two: Cross-Linguistic Differences." MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 26, pp. 325-382.

Poeppel, David, and Kenneth Wexler. "The Full Competence Hypothesis of Clause Structure in Early German." Language 69, no. 1 (1993): 1-33.

Rice, Mabel L., and Kenneth Wexler. "Toward Tense as a Clinical Marker of Specific Language Impairment in English-Speaking Children." Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38 (1996): 1239-1257.

PubMed abstract: A critical clinical issue is the identification of a clinical marker, a linguistic form or principle that can be shown to be characteristic of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). In this paper we evaluate, as candidate clinical markers, a set of morphemes that mark Tense. In English, this includes -s third person singular, -ed regular past, BE, and DO. According to the Extended Optional Infinitive Account (EOI) of Rice, Wexler, and Cleave (1995), this set of morphemes is likely to appear optionally in the grammars of children with SLI at a rate lower than the optionality evident in younger controls. Three groups of preschool children participated: 37 children with SLI, and two control groups, one of 40 MLU-equivalent children and another of 45 age-equivalent children. Three kinds of evidence support the conclusion that a set of morphemes that marks Tense can be considered a clinical marker: (a) low levels of accuracy for the target morphemes for the SLI group relative to either of the two control groups; (b) affectedness for the set of morphemes defined by the linguistic function of Tense, but not for morphemes unrelated to Tense; and (c) a bimodal distribution for Tense-marking morphemes relative to age peers, in which the typical children are at essentially adult levels of the grammar, whereas children in the SLI group were at low (i.e., non-adultlike) levels of performance. The clinical symptoms are evident in omissions of surface forms. Errors of subject-verb agreement and syntactic misuses are rare, showing that, as predicted, children in an EOI stage who are likely to mark Tense optionally at the same time know a great deal about the grammatical properties of finiteness and agreement in the adult grammar. The findings are discussed in terms of alternative accounts of the grammatical limitations of children with SLI and implications for clinical identification.

Schutze, Carson, and Kenneth Wexler. "Subject Case Licensing and English Root Infinitives." BUCLD 20 Proceedings. (1996): 670-681.

Wexler, Kenneth. "Optional infinitives, head movement and the economy of derivations." In Verb Movement. Edited by Lightfoot and Hornstein. Cambridge: University Press, 1993, pp. 305-350.

Wexler, Kenneth, and Peter W. Culicover. Formal Principles of Language Acquisition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980.

Wexler, Kenneth, and M. Rita Manzini. "Parameters and Learnability in Binding Theory." In Parameter Setting. Edited by Roeper and Williams. 1987, pp. 41-76.