Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish<sup>1</sup>

Joel C. Wallenberg

in Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659203
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745188 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics

Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish1

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This chapter investigates the relationship between child language acquisition and language change in a study of a major phrase structure change in the history of Yiddish, the change in the structure of TP from a German-like tense-final grammar to its modern tense-medial grammar (Santorini 1992, 1993).  In particular, this study will use the acquisition model of Yang (1999) to pose the question: was the direction of this change predetermined by the process of language acquisition? Additionally, the chapter explores the question of exactly which parameter was changing when the position of the tensed verb changed in the history of Yiddish. The chapter suggests that an antisymmetric approach to head-finality (in the spirit of Biberauer 2003) allows for a more precise understanding of how the process of child language acquisition led to the tense-medial outcome for the modern grammar of Yiddish.

Keywords: syntax; German; Yiddish; language change; language acquisition; evolutionary dynamics

Chapter.  6554 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Linguistics

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