Professor Samuel Epstein gave a colloquium talk at The University of Arizona Department of Linguistics. His talk was entitled “The Nature of Nurture and Non-Linguistic Language Variation.”


Section 1 of this talk discusses "The nature of nurture" (to appear, Biolinguistics (2016)) and possible unclarities regarding: (i) the sources of cross-linguistic variation, (i) Principles and Parameters theory, and the (iii) the meaning(s) of the term "nurture".  Section 2 reviews two different aspects of Nature (UG and 3RD Factor) relevant to Linguistic theory. Section 3 explores the hypothesis that (at least?) some Syntactic variation may be deducible from underspecification in the independently formulated (Chomskyan) concept of computationally efficient satisfaction of the interface conditions" --allowing more than one kind of optimal derivation (see Obata Epstein Baptista (2014), Obata Epstein (2016), Obata, Epstein and Seely forthcoming)  Epstein, Kitahara and Seely 2016, and  also Chomsky 1991, 2008, Boeckx 2010, Richards 2010, Epstein, Groat, Kawashima and Kitahara 1998 and Huang 1982). If feasible, and generalizable, such variation would be captured not by stipulated parameters of UG, but from what is NOT stated in the (underspecified, independently motivated Computationally efficient satisfaction of the interface conditions.” The hypothesis is implemented with respect to Cape Verdean and Haitian Creole overt complementizer distribution, Kilega Tense agreement, English Tough constructions, and aspects of agreement manifested in a Boston, Massachusetts dialect analyzed in Kimball and Aissen 1971. Section 4 explores what an I-language and a construction might be, given the theory proposed (which seeks to try to eliminate binary, stipulated parameters of UG.) Section 5 concludes with a discussion regarding the possible explanation of certain morphological variation in terms of syntactic Merge (specifically external pair Merge of heads) applied to generate "words"--again, with underspecification yielding cross linguistic and intra-linguistic (morphological) variation (see Marantz 1997, and e.g. Epstein, Kitahara and Seely 2016, Nobrega 2015).

Learn more about Samuel Epstein and his research.