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Education and Grammaticality Judgments on Persian Principles and Parameters

Farnaz Farrokh Alaee

Department of Linguistics and Foreign Languages, Payame-Noor University of Tehran, Iran Corresponding author: Farnaz Farrokh Alaee, Department of Linguistics and Foreign Languages, Payame-Noor University of Tehran, Iran. Email: farnaz.farrokhalaee@yahoo.com


Introduction: The innateness of language faculty and universal constraints, especially its independency from other mental disciplines, is a robust theory yet under investigation. This study is another contribution to making decisions on competence through performance. Methodology: The project applied an expressive grammaticality judgment task on principles and parameters of the Persian language and tested 24 native speakers’ claims on the statements in question. Results: The children judged sentence stimuli of two types (principles and parameters), each having two subcategories (Structure dependency and Projection principles, Head and Null-subjects (5-year-old) performance on principle- and parameter-judgments differed from their older counterparts (9-year-old), indicating the superior ability of the school-age group in distinguishing grammatically wellformed and ill-formed Persian principles and parameters. Conclusion: Since the older group attended elementary level (third grade), the interpretation of such results may pertain to education


Grammar has been defined as the overall description of the structure of a language and the way to combine units to form sentences (Richards & Schmidt, 2002). The definition takes into account the knowledge of meanings and functions too. In absolute terms, syntax concerns how words combine to form sentences. To put it another way, it includes the rules that govern the formation of sentences (Richards & Schmidt, 2002). The rendition of the word “grammar” by scholars differ, it is necessary to specify the description to the one concerned by this article; that is, the Chomsky’s assertion in cognitive science. The specific tenet of Chomsky’s theory was the introduction of grammar as a logico-mathematical system with precisely significant formal properties that restrict the range of possible language grammars. Chomsky prefaced these limited formal properties as UG (Chomsky, 1963, cited in Ingram, 2007). Universal grammar (UG) by Chomsky (1988) and Cook (1985) is the language faculty that serves as a guiding force in the process of language acquisition. Its central concept refers to “the system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages… the essence of human language…” (Chomsky, 1976, p. 29). UG is a faculty of principles and parameters (conditions) which govern human language (Chomsky, 1993). Principles of language are defined as universal aspects of human language, while parameters are various from one language to another within tightly set limits (Cook, 2008, p.33). The knowledge is built-in and subconscious. The principles govern and judge the language both in input and output according to UG constraints (Figure 1.). The principles and parameters of languages are numerous so that dealing with all of them is out of the concern of this paper, so we proceed through some famous examples: According to this principle, the syntactic function of the constituents depends on the syntactic relationships rather than on their linear ones. In other words, the syntactic operations are more concerned than the formal word-order (Chomsky, 1988, cited in Cook & Newson, 1998).

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