Content Questions Chapter 6: Syntax and Morphology

After watching each of the videos, you should be able to answer the questions below. This is a way for you to assess and test your own knowledge. You do not submit this for grading or review.  While the questions are split based on the videos, the book may also be necessary to help support your answers. As you read the book, you should be able to add to, refine or correct your answers from the videos.

Video 1: What is grammar and how complex is it?

  1. What is the difference between syntax and grammar?
  2. What is meant by the productivity or generativity of language?
  3. What is meant by the term abstract syntax? How does it relate to word classes? How does it relate to what you learn in grammar class about language? Using abstract grammar what are the rules underlying the sentence “She went to the store”?
  4. What is meant by Semantically based syntax? How is this different from the abstract syntax? Using a semantically based syntax what are the rules underlying the sentence “She went to the store”?
  5. Of these syntax types discussed in the lecture, which is most like what we think of as adult syntax? Which is most similar to how bird’s songs are created? Do these types of syntax all have generativity or not?
  6. Which do you think you use when creating sentences and why? – there is no correct answer to this, just think about it and see what you come up with.

Video 2: Features of adult grammar

  1. What are open-class (or lexical categories) and closed-class (or functional) words? Give examples of each and how they differ developmentally.
  2. What is meant by the hierarchical structure of language?  Give examples of how sentences build in hierarchical ways (word to phrase, phrase to sentence and so on). 

Video 3: Morphology

  1. What is morphology? What are bound and free-morphemes? Give examples of each.  Write a sentence with 7 words and 11 morphemes. 
  2. How does morphology differ cross-linguistically?  What is meant by saying English has weak morphology compared to other languages? When languages do not depend heavily on word order, how are features like Person denoted in the sentence?
  3. What is the difference between derivational morphemes and inflectional morphemes? Give 3 examples of each and be sure to explain why they are each type.
  4. What’s the difference between prescriptive and descriptive rules?  Give examples of sentences that are descriptively correct but prescriptively wrong.  Which one do linguists study and why?

Video 4: Children’s production: how do we study it what do they do and transition periods.

  1. How is productive syntactic development normally studied?
  2. What does MLU stand for?  What does MLU reflect? What is it used for?  What advantages does it have over counting words?  Create an example with an MLU of 4 but a word count of 2.
  3. What are “transitional forms”? What is a vertical construction? What is an unanalyzed combination (try to come up with one of your own)? What is a word+Jargon combo?
  4. What is the importance of transitional forms for syntactic development? 

Video 5: Children’s production, two words through telegraphic speech.

  1. Two-word speech normally follows a standard pattern for children learning English. What are some of the common features of this two-word speech?  Why is the fact that children have productivity early on so important to our understanding of language development?
  2. What is relational meaning?  What are the advances that are made to transition between 2 and 3 word phrases? Why is it so important to our understanding of language development?
  3. What changes occur in the transition between the 2 word and 3 word stages? Does this seem like continuous or discontinuous development to you?
  4. What is telegraphic speech? At what age is it commonly used? What features are lacking? What are grammatical morphemes? What are 4 possible reasons for dropping grammatical morphemes?

Video 6: Morphology

  1. How long can it take for a morpheme to be used reliable in English?
  2. How do grammatical morphemes develop in terms of RATE and ORDER? What differences are found cross-linguistically in morphological development? 
  3. In what way does the use of declaratives, imperatives and questions shift during early development?
  4. Why are negatives, questions and passives hard sentence structures for children to learn?
  5. Describe the developmental patterns found in expressing negation? What is meant when we describe a contraction (example: can’t) as a single morpheme?
  6. Describe the development patterns found in asking questions.  How do yes/no and Wh- questions differ? What makes yes/no questions easier? What is an inversion in question construction? What does it reveal about children’s grammatical understanding?
  7. What is difficult about passive forms for children?  At what age do children start to construct these? What are complex sentences?
  8. Describe holistic and analytical children mastering grammatical development (your book covers this in more detail than the lectures).
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