A developmental view on incrementation in language change

Ailís Cournane

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Acquisition is an intuitive place to look for explanation in language change. Each child must learn their individual grammar(s) via the indirect process of analyzing the output of others' grammars, and the process necessarily involves social transmission over several years. On the basis of child language learning behaviors, I ask whether it is reasonable to expect the incrementation (advancement) of new variants to be kicked off by and sustained by the acquisition process. I discuss literature on how children respond to input variation, and a series of new studies experimentally testing incrementation, and argue that at least for some phenomena, young children overgeneralize innovative variants beyond their input. I sketch a model of incrementation based on initial overgeneralization, and offer further thoughts on next steps. Much collaborative work remains to precisely link analogous dynamic phenomena in learning and change.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)127-150
    Number of pages24
    JournalTheoretical Linguistics
    Issue number3-4
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


    • actuation
    • incrementation
    • innovation
    • language acquisition and change
    • overgeneralization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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