Chapter

Macroparameters and minimalism

Ian Roberts

in Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659203
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745188 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659203.003.0017

Series: Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics

Macroparameters and minimalism

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This chapter proposes a reconceptualization of the principles-and-parameters approach to comparative syntax, retaining its strengths and attempting to deal with its perceived weaknesses. The central idea is to organize the parameters of universal grammar into hierarchies, which define the ways in which properties of individually variant categories may act in concert. This creates macroparametric effects from the combined action of many microparameters. The highest position in a hierarchy defines a macroparameter, a major typological property; lower positions define successively more local properties. Parameter setting in language acquisition starts at the highest position as this is the simplest choice; acquirers will 'move down the hierarchy' when confronted with primary linguistic data incompatible with a high setting. Hence, the hierarchies simultaneously define learning paths and typological properties.

Keywords: parameter; universal grammar; hierarchy; language acquisition; markedness

Chapter.  6266 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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