The UG Model of Language Acquisition
(fairly dated see Cook & Newson 2007 for an update and UG as the norm for SLA  plus Old UG Paper)

Chomsky photo

SLA Topics  SLA Bibliography  Vivian Cook 

Universal Grammar metaphors

States Model of Universal Model acquisition
S1 S2 S3 S4 Sn

The states metaphor in L1 acquisition – zero to final states

LAD figure Language Acquisition Model
The LAD/UG/blackbox Model

Principles and parameters theory

The basic assumption of the P&P model is that languages have no rules at all in anything like the traditional sense, and no grammatical constructions (relative clauses, passives, etc.) except as taxonomic artifacts.’ (Chomsky, 1994, p.3).

X-bar principle: every phrase has a head and a possible complement

X phrase

head X Complement
bought a book

The Head Parameter

English Verb phrase Japanese Verb phrase

head Verb Noun Phrase Noun Phrase head Verb
bought a book hon-o katta
(book bought)

English preposition phrase Japanese preposition phrase

head preposition Noun Phrase Noun Phrase head postposition
in England nihon ni
(Japan in)

head-first structure head-last structure
any lexical phrase any lexical phrase

head phrase phrase head

Verb Phrase V bought NP a book O hon-o V katta

Prepositional P in NP England P nihon NP ni
Adjective Phrase A afraid PP of dogs NP inu o A kowagatte

Noun Phrase N the claim NP that he’s NP zibun ga N schichoo
right tadashi-to- iu

The Head Parameter: a particular language consistently has the heads on the same side of the complements in all its phrases, whether head-first or head-last.

The principle of structure-dependency

1. Cantona was fired by the manager.
2. The manager fired Cantona.

3. The manager fired Cantona.

4 Cantona was fired by the manager.

5. The manager fired Cantona
1 2 3 4

6. On Tuesday the manager fired Cantona.
1 2 3 4 5 6

7. *Manager on Tuesday the was fired Cantona.
8. The manager fired the player.
9. *The was fired player by the manager.

10. The player who once played for England and used to appear in TV commercials for soft drinks was fired by the manager.

11. Will the manager fire Cantona?

12. The manager will fire Cantona
13. On Tuesday the manager will fire Cantona.
14. The manager who will fire Cantona will succeed.
15. Will the manager who will fire Cantona succeed?
16. *Will the manager who fire Cantona will succeed?
17. Is the man who is here tall?
18. *Is the man who here is tall?

Está el hombre, que está contento, en las casa?
(Is the man, who is happy, at home?)
Is the man who is happy at home?

UG & L2 Learning References

Bley-Vroman, R.W., Felix, S., & Ioup, G.L. (1988), 'The accessibility of Universal Grammar in adult language learning', Second Language Research, 4, 1, 1-32

Chomsky, N. (1988), Language and Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures, MIT Press

Cook, V.J. (1993), Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, Macmillan

Cook, V.J. (1994), 'UG and the metaphor of access', in N. Ellis (ed.), Implicit Learning of Language, Academic Press

Cook, V.J. (1997), Inside Language, Arnold

Clahsen, H., & Muysken, P. (1986), 'The availability of universal grammar to adult and child learners - a study of the acquisition of German word order', Second Language Research, 2, 2, 93-119

Eubank, L. (ed.), Point Counterpoint: Universal Grammar in the Second Language, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 305-338

Flynn, S. (1988), 'Second Language Acquisition and Grammatical Theory', in F. Newmeyer (ed.), Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey, Cambridge University Press

White, L. (1989), Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition, Amsterdam, John Benjamins