791C Seminar on Multiple Grammars (3 units)

Fall 2012


M 2:30-5:15 - South College 301


Thomas Roeper []

Luiz Amaral []


Fall 2012: The course is an advanced seminar in language acquisition with a specific focus on the Multiple Grammars Theory (MG). Recent work in linguistic theory suggests that more than one grammar may be involved in every language. In this seminar we will explore questions such as: how far is there a universal default grammar available to all speakers? How far do grammars borrow from each other? How far do several representations operate at once? We will also examine the origins of Multiple Grammars (Kroch, Roeper, Yang) and recent extensions (Amaral and Roeper), and their implications for a variety of theories of second language acquisition from Sharwood-Smith, Truscott, Montrul, Liceras, Schwartz and Sprouse, Sorace and others.

One of the theoretical underpinnings of MG is the idea that monolingual, bilingual, L2 and code-switching dialect speakers of any language must have more than just one (complex) grammar that encompasses all rules relevant to their linguistic representation. Instead they may have narrow grammatical representations that provide, at times, alternative analyses of the same sentence.

Given multiple possible (sub)grammars that might exit in someone’s mind, it is an interesting theoretical question to ask how far they share or avoid connections in formal representation. The theoretical basis of these questions flows from the idea that rules should be minimal and "avoid complexity". Therefore we expect a speaker to form a separate rule (a separate sub-grammar) rather than complicate an existing rule to capture divergent features of the language.