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Shvoong Home>Arts & Humanities>On Chomsky's Innateness of Binding Principles Summary

On Chomsky's Innateness of Binding Principles

Article Summary   by:TsingHua     Original Author: MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES
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The present research investigates Chomsky's Innateness Hypothesis with respect to the syntactic area of Binding Theory. An experiment is conducted on 45 7 year old grade 1 primary school pupils, 45 13 year old grade 6 primary school pupils and 51 19 year old first year college students to check the innateness of Binding in native speakers of Chinese of different ages. The primary finding of the study is that native Chinese speakers, adults or children, have knowledge of Binding Principles, and their comprehension of anaphoric relations is generally constrained by Binding Principles and relevant parameter settings, though cases of underinterpretation and violation of BP also exist. The former mainly has to do with such facts that the long distance binder of the reflexive anaphor 自己is more marked than its local one, and that one of the allowed interpretations may be more prominent than another for semantic or pragmatic reasons. And as for the latter, such as cases of binding the reflexive to a non c commanding NP or binding the pronominal inside the local domain, though violating BP, they were so few as to be insignificant.
Underinterpretations and errors that occurred and which violated BP were due not to lack of knowledge of principles, but to difficulty in applying the principles in the course of sentence comprehension. The difference in performances between the children and the adults lies mainly in the latter's more developed speech processing memory and general cognitive power. This study shows that such competence as is reflected by the native speakers of Chinese in the experiment cannot be learnt through instruction,or acquired from language input or by other mental faculties. It can only be an innate property of the human language faculty, one faculty of the mind. Thus the present paper provides empirical evidence for Chomsky's innateness of Binding Principles, and for Wexler & Manzini's parameterized governing category in Binding Theory as well.
Published: October 30, 1998   
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