GRS LX 700
Language Acquisition
and
Linguistic Theory
Week 13.
Models, input, intake, attrition
The Monitor Hypothesis

A linguistic expression originates in the
system of acquired knowledge, but prior to
output a “Monitor” checks it against
consciously known rules and may modify
the expression before it is uttered.
Learned
competence
(the Monitor)
Acquired
competence
output
What makes input into
intake?




Apperception: Recognizing the gap between what L2’er
knows and what there is to know.
Comprehensibility: Either the semantic meaning is
determinable or the relevant structural aspects are
determinable.
Attention: Selecting aspects of the knowledge to be
learned (from among many other possible things) for
processing.
Output: Forcing a structural hypothesis, elsewhere used
to shape input into a form useful for intake.
Input  apperception


Some input is apperceived, some isn’t.
That which isn’t is thought of as blocked
by various “filters”:
Time pressure
 Frequency non-extremes
 Affective (status, motivation, attitude, …)
 Prior knowledge (grounding, analyzability)
 Salience (drawing attention)

Apperception 
comprehension



Modification of speech to learner
(“foreigner talk”)
Redundancy
Negotiation for meaning


(often, meaning is a precursor to being able to
assign a syntactic representation).
Note: Much of the following discussion is
probably more about learning than
acquisition. Cf. “L2A” of C++.
Foreigner talk

Like the better-known phenomenon of
“baby talk”, it also turns out that people
conversing with others whom they
perceive to be non-native speakers
(NNSs) will often use a form of “foreigner
talk”—modified language forms
presumably intended to simplify the
utterance.
Foreigner talk









Slower, clearer articulation
Higher frequency vocabulary, fewer idioms
Providing more definitions
Less elliptical
More gestures
Short, simple sentences
Moving topics to the front of the sentence,
new information to the end of the sentence
More repetition, restatements.
Recasting NNS’s incorrect statements
Foreigner talk

The ways in which this happens varies a
lot—where it happens at all, there are
many different ways that sentences are
“simplified”.

The adjustments often happen in the face
of an evident lack of comprehension.
Foreigner talk




NNS: How have increasing food costs
changed your eating habits?
NS: Well, I don’t know that it’s changed
them. I try to adjust.
NNS: Pardon me?
NS: I don’t think it’s changed my eating
habits.
Foreigner talk




NNS: How have increasing food costs
changed your eating habits?
NS: Oh, rising costs… we’ve cut back on
the more expensive things. Gone to
cheaper foods.
NNS: Pardon me?
NS: We’ve gone to cheaper foods.
Foreigner talk

The “simplification” sometimes even sacrifices
grammaticality, which is probably of dubious value both for
comprehension and learning.

Basil: It’s not fire; it’s only bell.

NNS has an object from a grab-bag, NS is trying to guess
its identity.


NS: Ok, little guy! Yeah, yours! Okay! Yours is it for eat?
NNS: Eat. No.
Foreigner talk




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A: Yesterday my country change, ah, President.
NS: Oh yeah? Now, is the new one a good one?
A: Um?
NS: Is a good President? Do you like him? No?
NS: Does she speak English?
C: No.
NS: Nothing?
C: No.
NS: She doesn’t talk? Always quiet? No talk?
Comprehension

In general, this appears to be in service of
comprehension—done in order to make
linguistically less sophisticated
interlocutors able to understand.

Once there is understanding, we also are
ready for there to be intake of the input as
well.
“Backchannel cues”

L2’ers often foil this process by providing
“backchannel cues” which indicate to the
NS that communication is proceeding,
comprehension has been achieved. “Smile
and nod”.
I’d like to buy a TV.


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

NNS is trying to buy a TV, but accidentally called a repair
shop.
…
Ah Sony please.
We don’t work on Sonys.
Or Sylvania.
Sylvania?
Uh huh.
Oh, Sylvania, OK. That’s American made.
OK.
I’d like to buy a TV.


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All right. Portables have to be brought in.
Hm hm.
And there’s no way I can tell you how much it’ll cost until
he looks at it.
Hm hm.
And it’s a $12.50 deposit.
OK.
And if he can fix it that applies to labor and if he can’t he
keeps the $12.50 for his time and effort.
Hm hm.
I’d like to buy a TV.






How old of a TV is it? Do you know off hand?
19 inch.
How old of a TV is it? Is it a very old one or only
a couple years old?
Oh, so so.
The only thing you can do is bring it in and let
him look at it and go from there.
New television please.
Comprehension vs. output

Comprehension can come in various ways, some of which
have nothing to do with the structure.


With some knowledge of the situation, and assuming speaker will
make sense, be relevant, provide given and new information
appropriately, be cooperative, the listener can come quite close to
understanding the meaning without having any kind of syntactic
analysis for it.
If learning the structure of the target language is
considered to be the ultimate goal, this kind of
comprehension may be unhelpful.
Comprehension vs. output


No such crutches are available for
production, however. If you’re going to say
something in the target language, you’ll
need to choose a syntax.
Output viewed this way could be a way of
creating grammatical knowledge (not just
using pre-existing knowledge)—forcing an
analysis where there was not one before.
Output and negative evidence

Of course, output will give the L2’er
practice, allow for the “automation” of
certain things allowing attention to shift
elsewhere.

Additionally, output provides an
opportunity for negative evidence,
correction from the outside.
Negotiating for meaning

Very often a NS-NNS (or NNS-NNS)
conversation will involve a fair amount of
negotiating for meaning—where
understanding has not happened, the
conversation takes a detour to repair the
problem.
Negotiating for meaning

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(S) Had to declare—declare?—her ingress.
(J) English?
No. English no (laugh)… ingress, her ingress.
Ingless?
Ingress. Yes. I N G R E S S more or less.
Ingless.
Yes. If for example, if you, when you work you had an
ingress, you know?
Uh huh an ingless?
Yes..
Negotiating for meaning

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Uh huh OK
Yes, if for example, your homna, husband works, when
finish, when end the month his job, his boss pay—mm—
him something.
Aaaah.
And your family have some ingress.
Yes, ah, ok ok.
More or less ok? And in this institution take care of all
ingress of the company and review the accounts.
Ok I got, I see.
Ok. My father work there, but now he is old.
Pre-empting negotiation


In the category of “foreigner talk” we might also
include these…
Lots of comprehension/confirmation checks and
clarification requests:





I was born in Nagasaki. Do you know Nagasaki?
And your family have some ingress…more or less ok?
(When can you go to visit me?) Visit?
(…research). Research, I don’t know the meaning.
Questions often come with suggested responses

When do you take the break? At ten-thirty?
Healthy miscommunication


A failure to communicate can serve to focus attention
on areas where the NNS’s grammar is non-native-like,
prompting negotiation for meaning and providing
possible intake data.
Michael Long’s “Interaction Hypothesis” is that this kind
of negotiation for meaning and resulting attention is
necessary for advancement toward the grammar of the
target grammar—in part because it connects input,
existing knowledge, selective attention, and output in
productively trying to solve a current language
deficiency.
Still, feedback isn’t
everything

Ideally, a learner produces an
ungrammatical sentences, gets negative
feedback indicating that there is a problem
(those involved in the conversation
negotiate for meaning), focusing attention
on the problem area, and the learner takes
input bearing on this as intake,
incorporating it into his/her grammar.
Still, feedback isn’t
everything



Problem is, such evidence is not very
consistent—it might be helpful when it
happens, but it’s hard to be sure when it is
happening.
First: Not all incorrect forms get corrected
(e.g., if the hearer understood).
Second: Errors leading to
misunderstanding might not be revealed
until quite a bit later, if at all…
Still, feedback isn’t
everything


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
NS: When I get to Paris, I’m going to sleep for
one whole day. I’m so tired.
NNS: What?
NS: I’m going to sleep for one whole day.
NNS: One hour a day?
NS: Yes.
NNS: Why?
NS: Because I’m so tired.
…enduring silence…
Still, feedback isn’t
everything

Moreover, how is this useful feedback?


NS: Did you fly to Singapore yesterday?
NNS: Did I flied here yesterday?
NS: Pardon?
NNS: Did I flied here yesterday?

How does this help fix the problem?


Still, feedback isn’t
everything

Sometimes it works…

NNS: There is a library.
NS: A what?
NNS: A place where you put books.
NS: A bookshelf?




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NNS: He pass his house
NS: Sorry?
NNS: He passed, he passed, ah, his sign.
Still, feedback isn’t
everything

Feedback (“negative evidence”) is just too
inconsistent to be reliable—to really be the
whole story about how people learn a
second language.

Interaction does seem to help, though, for
whatever reason…
Mackey 1999


Looked at question formation in ESL speakers.
Tasks (designed to spark questions)

Story completion

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Picture sequencing

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Discovering the order of a picture story
Picture differences

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Working out a story by asking questions
Identifying the differences between similar pictures
Picture drawing

Describing or drawing a picture.
Mackey 1999: Procedure
Wk
1
1
Test /
Day treatment
1
2
Pretest
Treat 1
1
3
Treat 2
1
4
Treat 3
1
2
3
5
5
5
Posttest 1
Posttest 1
Posttest 1
Activity
Pic diff
Story compl, Pic seq, Pic
draw
Story compl, Pic seq, Pic
draw
Story compl, Pic seq, Pic
draw
Pic diff
Pic diff
Pic diff
Examples
3
1 each
1 each
1 each
3
3
3
Measure of development
using question formation

2: SVO?


3: Fronting Wh/Do


Have you drawn the cat?
5: Do/Aux-second (wh-front, inversion)


What the cat doing in your picture?
4: Inversion (auxiliaries not do)


Your cat is black?
Why have you left home?
6: Uninverted in embedded clauses

Can you tell me where the cat is?
Mackey 1999: subject groups

Interactors


Interactor unreadies


Watch interactionally modified input, answer
comprehension questions afterwards.
Scripteds


Natural interaction, but low development measure
Observers


Natural interaction
Premodified (scripted) input, leaving very little room
for communication breakdown.
Controls
Mackey 1999




Scripted (premodified) group
NS: and now under it draw a pear. A pear is a fruit. It is
like an apple. The color is green. Draw the pear under
the book. Can you draw it?
NNS: Ok ok I got it. Look like apple (draws)
NS: Good. Now on the right of the pear draw an
umbrella.
Mackey 1999

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

Interactor groups
NS: Underneath it is a pear, it’s green
NNS: What is it a bear?
NS: A pear, pears are fruit, it’s a fruit, juicy like an apple
NNS: Ok pear, fruit like Japanese fruit nashi very
delicious. You saw this in Japan? Have you eat one?
NS: Yeah I did but a nashi is round yeah? Pears are
round on the bottom, narrow on top. Have you eaten one
here in Australia?
NNS: Yes thank you. I had a pear in my lunch (time)
not…juicy? (draws) Like this?
Mackey 1999

Looking at whether different groups moved
up a developmental stage.


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Must produce at least 2 higher-level questions
in 2 of the 3 post-tests to have “moved up a
stage”
Private ESL school in Australia, about 6
months in residence overall.
27 classified as lower-intermediate, 7
classified as beginners (the interactor
unreadies), average 1.7 mo. in residence.
Mackey 1999: % people
moved up a stage
100
86
90
% of participants
who increased
80
70
71
57
60
50
40
30
16
20
14
10
0
Interactor (5/7)
Control (1/7)
Interactor
Unready (6/7)
Scripted (1/6)
Observer (4/7)
Interactors significantly more
likely to move up
50
% who increased
45
40
35
33
30
25
17
20
15
10
5
0
Interactors (both types )
Non-interactors (control, scripted, obs erver)
Mackey 1999: Increase in
stage 4 & 5 questions in
posttests
8
7
6
5
Interactor
Control
Observers
Scripted
Unreadies
4
3
2
1
0
T1
T2
T3
Mackey 1999

Mackey claims that her study shows that
the interactors have a significant
advantage over the non-interactors, based
on the previous graph (production of highstage questions).

Yet—should advancing stage be the real
goal? In that, the observers also benefited.
Mackey 1999



Delayed benefit—
Interestingly in the latest posttest (2 weeks
after the treatment), the numbers of highstage questions had continued to grow.
Suggests perhaps that this had focused
attention on areas that needed work, but
the grammatical changes were not
implemented immediately.
Input, interaction… UG?

UG hasn’t played a very big role in the
discussion of the importance of interaction,
converting input into intake, negotiating for
meaning. How can we connect them?
Parameters, triggers

Recall that one of the crucial features of
parameters is that (ideally) each parameter
setting has a cluster of effects.

It’s not just that the verb appears before
adverbs—it is that the verb moves into the
tense position, which means it appears before
adverbs and before negation. Coming before
adverbs and coming before negation are a
cluster of properties tied to the single verbraising parameter.
Parameters, triggers

In order to set a parameter in the way which
matches the setting reflected by the language in
the environment, the learner needs to look for
consequences of a particular setting.

Designated bits of data which can serve as
unambiguous indicators of one parameter
setting over another are sometimes called
triggers.
Parameters, triggers

So, for example, the L1’er’s task is to examine
the input for instances of these triggers and use
them to set the parameter to the correct value.

Some of the consequences of any given
parameter setting might be fairly obscure, not
likely to show up in frequent (or easily analyzed)
ambient speech data accessible to the kid. This
might make it hard to set one’s parameters—but
for the clustering property.
Parameters, triggers

Indications that the verb moves:



Indications that the verb doesn’t move:


Do-support (The verb does not usually move)
Indications that null subjects are allowed:



Seeing verbs before negation
Seeing verbs before adverbs
Null subjects are observed.
Postverbal subjects are allowed.
Indications that null subjects are not allowed:

Expletive subjects are observed (it’s raining).
Parameters, triggers

If triggers are what setting parameters is all about, then
the interaction stuff is probably about making the triggers
more salient.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to interpret existing “input
enhancement” type studies in these terms because they
measured different things—we don’t know what triggers
were present, what effect making triggers (vs. nontriggers?) salient had.
Parameters, triggers

If language acquisition (first or second)
were just about finding triggers to set the
parameters, why is it so hard then? Why is
negotiation, etc. important (to L2A
anyway)? This suggests that the triggers
are in the “incomprehensible” input, that
needs to be elaborated on in order to be
used as intake (and thus to set the
parameter).
Ungrammatical FT

Incidentally, the parameters approach makes
“ungrammatical foreigner talk” even more
problematic.

Consider: In foreigner talk…




The pronoun it is pervasively omitted.
Auxiliary do is regularly omitted.
Subjects are left out.
What if those were triggers?
Modularity (Schwartz 1999)

Fodor (1983) proposed that the mind comes in
“modules”:


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Domain specificity
Information encapsulation
Mandatory operation
Speed
Limited accessibility to consciousness
Shallow outputs
Regularity of development
Fixed neural architecture
Characteristic patterns of breakdown
Modularity

Vision is always good to compare to
language; it has a similar level of
complexity, and it has many properties that
linguists often attribute to language.

There could be a language module, since
there is fairly uncontroversially a vision
module.
Vision

Optical illusions— you can’t help but see
them.
Vision

Optical illusions— you can’t help but see them.
(movies by Yaer Weiss & Edward Adelson)
Modularity

The points about these visual illusions are:
The processing involved in vision is quite
complex.
 It is also completely unconscious.
 Learning that the lines are the same length or
that the checkers are the same color doesn’t
help.
 Language knowledge of the sort we’re
interested in may well have these same
properties; Krashen’s learned/acquired
distinction might be right.

A
model
of L2A?
L in g ui sti c
inp ut
Appe rce ived
inpu t
LAD
P rior lingu ist ic know ledge
Co m p rehended
inpu t
In take

Perhaps
comically
complex,
but to
some
extent
justified.
L in g ui sti c
inp ut
F re quency , p ri or know ledge ,
affe ct, att en ti on, pro c es si ng
St or a ge
Hypo the si s te sti ng a ga ins t
cu rre nt g ramm ar
Ignorag e
G ramm ar
m od ific ation
G ramm ar
str eng then ing
UG
In tegra tion
D isc ou rse
pl an ning
C ult ural
k n o w led ge
L ea rned
Int er lan gu ag e
g ra m m a r
Acqu ir ed
L1
U tt erance p lann ing
Mod e (or al /w ritt en ),
sit ua ti on , pe rs ona lity ,
m on it or ing , p roce ssing
L in g ui sti c
o u tput
Integrated
model?


This is the part
considered to
represent L1A.
PLD is processed by
the LAD, filtered by
UG, and implemented
as acquired (UGcompliant, parametric)
knowledge.
PLD
LAD
UG
L1
acquired
Integrated
model?

PLD
LAD
If something suffers
from passing the
critical period, it would
probably be the LAD,
cutting off this avenue
of acquisition.
UG
L1
acquired
PLD affective
etc.
apperceived prior linguistic
knowledge
?
comprehensible input
Integrated
model?


To the extent that you can
still get acquired
knowledge in the IL, it has
to be in an appropriate
form, filtered by UG.
First filtered by attention,
etc., and prior knowledge.
UG
IL
acquired
L1
PLD affective
etc.
apperceived prior linguistic
knowledge
?
comprehensible input
Integrated
model?

The L1 plays an important
role in defining the
acquired knowledge in the
IL grammar; perhaps the
starting point, perhaps the
ending point too.
UG
IL
acquired
L1
PLD affective
etc.
Integrated
model?

The learning part of
L2A follows a
general learning
pattern: hypothesis
testing, affecting
the stored
knowledge.
apperceived prior linguistic
knowledge
comprehended input
hypothesis testing
intake
integration
storage
modification/strengthening
IL
learned
Discourse
planning
Cultural
knowledge
Integrated
model?




Creating output is fairly
complex.
Discourse planning
concerns intent
Cultural knowledge
concerns norms in
expressing this intent.
Utterance planning sets
up the structure.
IL
learned
acquired
Utterance
planning
Mode, situation,
personality, monitoring,
processing
linguistic output
Discourse
planning
Cultural
knowledge
Integrated
model?


Utterance structure is
driven by the acquired
knowledge.
Filters on the planned
utterance involve the
monitor and other outputrelevant factors.
IL
learned
acquired
Utterance
planning
Mode, situation,
personality, monitoring,
processing
linguistic output
Integrated
model?


Does practice help
convert learned
knowledge into acquired
knowledge?
Perhaps, if the output can
count as comprehensible
input…
UG
IL
learned
acquired
linguistic output
Prisms and vision



The visual system can adjust itself (after the
critical period), even if it does seem for the most
part “hardwired”.
Fitting someone with prisms that change the
angle of incoming visual stimuli causes initial
visual confusion, but they “get used to it” and
soon don’t even notice anything unusual.
Perhaps the phenomenon of L1 attrition is
something like this…
and language attrition

It is a very common phenomenon that,
having learned an L2 and having become
quite proficient, one will still “forget” how to
use it after a period of non-use.

While very common, it’s not very
surprising—it’s like calculus. If L2 is a skill
like calculus, we’d expect this.
L1 attrition

Much more surprising is the fact that sometimes
under the influence of a dominant L2, skill in the L1
seems to go.

Consider the UG/parameter model; a kid’s LAD
faced with PLD, automatically sets the parameters
in his/her head to match those exhibited by the
linguistic input. L1 is effortless, fast, uniformly
successful… biologically driven, not learning in the
normal sense of learning a skill.
So how could it suffer attrition? What are you left
with?

UG in L2A


We’ve looked at the questions concerning
whether when learning a second language, one
can adapt the “parameter settings” in the new
knowledge to the target settings (where they
differ from the L1 settings), but this is even more
dramatic—it would seem to actually be altering
the L1 settings.
It behooves us to look carefullier at this; do
attrited speakers seem to have changed
parameter settings?
EnglishHebrew kid in Israel

He doesn’t know to who it belongs.


He’s thinking about with what they can play.


(cf. He doesn’t know who it belongs to.)
(cf. He’s thinking about what they can play with.)
Hebrew doesn’t allow preposition stranding—the
constraint against prepositions stranding seems to
have been “back copied”
HebrewEnglish


Ma at midaberet al?
The reverse situation is reported to hold as
well; here, a Hebrew sentence
(ungrammatical to monolinguals) involving
preposition stranding.
ItalianEnglish

Italian is a “null subject” language that allows the
subject to be dropped in most cases where in
English we’d use a pronoun


(Possible to use a pronoun in Italian, but it conveys
something pragmatic: contrastive focus or change in
topic)
English is a “non-null-subject” language that
does not allow the subject to be dropped out,
pronouns are required (even sometimes
“meaningless” like it or there). Not required that
a pronoun signal a change in topic.
Italian, null subjects
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Q: Perchè Maria è uscite?
‘Why did M leave?’
A1: Lei ha deciso di fare una passeggiata.
A2: Ha deciso di fare une passenggiata.
‘She decided to take a walk.’
Monolingual Italian speaker would say A2,
but English-immersed native Italian
speaker will optionally produce (and
accept) A1. (Sorace 2000)
Greek too… (null subjects)
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Q: Jati vjike i Maria?
‘Why did Maria go out?’
A1: Afti apofasise na pai mia volta.
A2: Apofasise na pai mia volta.
‘She decided to take a walk’
Reverse errors unattested
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Q: Perchè Maria è uscite?
‘Why did Maria leave?’
A: *Perchè Ø è venuto a prederla.
‘Because (Gianni) came to pick her up.’
That is, they don’t forget how to use null
subjects so much as they broaden the
contexts in which they can use overt
pronouns.
Postverbal subjects
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Q: Chi ha starnutito? ‘Who sneezed?’
A1: Gianni ha starnutito.
A2: Ha starnutito Gianni.
Native speakers would say A2 because of
the narrow focus; attrited speakers will
produce/allow A1 as well.
L1 attrition
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It seems that the acceptability of overt pronouns
(in the L1 “attriters”) broadens compared to their
L1, the acceptability of null pronouns becomes
more restricted.
Pronouns in a null subject language are
marked—they are restricted to particular
discourse contexts ([+topic shift], according to
Sorace).
What seems to happen is that the pronouns
revert to the unmarked case ([±topic shift] like in
English).
L1 attrition
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Same goes for postverbal subjects—it is a
marked option for languages, and the L1
seems to be retreating to the unmarked.
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Like with pronouns, it seems to be not a
question of grammaticality but a question
of felicity.
L1 attrition
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Certain areas of the L1 grammar are more
susceptible to this kind of attrition then others.
Sorace notes that the observed cases of attrition
of this sort seem to be the ones involved with
discourse and pragmatics, not with fundamental
grammatical settings. (The attrited Italian is still a
null-subject language, for example—null
subjects are still possible and used only in
places where null subjects should be allowed).
L1 attrition
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So, we’re left with a not-entirelyinconsistent view of the world.
Parameter settings in L1 appear to be
safe, but the discourse-pragmatic
constraints seem to be somehow
susceptible to high exposure to conflicting
constraints in other languages.
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GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory