An influential analysis by Hale (1980, 1983) proposed that, in contrast to 'configurational' languages (like English) that have a hierarchical structure, free-word-order languages like Japanese and Warlpiri lack the VP node and are associated with a 'non-configurational,' flat structure. However, later studies on Japanese (Hoji 1985) and Warlpiri (Legate 2002) revealed that these languages are just as configurational as English, which in turn argues for the view that every language is configurational (Miyagawa and Saito 2008). One piece of evidence that Japanese is configurational comes from the distribution of the formal noun koto (Kuno 1976). If UG constrains every language to be configurational, as the theory claims, it is predicted that the structure of Japanese-speaking preschoolers is hierarchically organized in the same way as the adult structure. To evaluate this prediction, the author conducted an experiment with 12 children (mean age 4;05). The results indicate that those children's grammar generates a hierarchically-organized phrase structure.
Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2010)
edited by Mihaela Pirvulescu, María Cristina Cuervo, Ana T. Pérez-Leroux, Jeffrey Steele, and Nelleke Strik
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