research are to develop a model of syntax acquisition in which the separate but interdependent developments of knowledge and the use of knowledge are accounted for, and the role of input in the development of each is specified. A successful model will allow correct categorization of the deficits of language-impaired children and adults, and will contribute to effective remediation programs for the language-impaired. The proposed research involves three procedures, which are to be performed with children aged 1 year, 10 months to 2 years, 6 months. The research is designed to disentangle knowledge and use-of-knowledge factors in English-speaking children's early speech. Two of the proposed techniques are designed to localize the sources of children's early errors in syntax acquisition: are children's inconsistencies in the use of sentential subjects and closed-class morphemes (such as auxiliaries and the past tense) the result of an incorrect or incomplete grammar, or do the errors reflect deficits in the access or use of children's grammatical knowledge? If the proposed techniques succeed as diagnostic tools, they will allow us to learn which developmental changes are due to changes in the child's knowledge base and which are due to more successful utilization of already existent knowledge. The techniques, having proven their usefulness with a normal population, can then be used with language-impaired and language-delayed populations in order to determine the sources of errors in their speech. The third technique is designed to investigate simultaneously the development of children's use of pronouns as subjects, and the role of input in that development. A neglected--and, where not neglected, vexing--issue within syntax acquisition research is how children utilize input. The procedure used here is designed to show whether a brief intervention will accelerate children's use of pronominal subjects. If successful, the procedure will make feasible a line of experimental investigation into the effects of input and the nature of the child's learning mechanism. It will also have implications for intervention programs with language-impaired and language-delayed populations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Perception and Cognition Review Committee (PEC)
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Hunter College
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New York
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Valian, Virginia; Prasada, Sandeep; Scarpa, Jodi (2006) Direct object predictability: effects on young children's imitation of sentences. J Child Lang 33:247-69
Valian, Virginia; Aubry, Stephanie (2005) When opportunity knocks twice: two-year-olds' repetition of sentence subjects. J Child Lang 32:617-41
Valian, V (1999) Rethinking learning: comments on Rethinking innateness. J Child Lang 26:248-53