ForMAAL – Formal, Mental, and Acquisitional Approaches to Language

ForMAAL – Formal, Mental, and Acquisitional Approaches to Language

The focus of ForMAAL is on knowledge of language(s) in the individual, the acquisition of such language(s) in children and in adults, and the nature and form of mental representations of language, grammar and lexicon. Our research into language and linguistics is in large part inspired by the generativist tradition, focusing on the nature of language as a cognitive system internal to the individual which may be, at least in part, governed by innate, biologically-specified and linguistically-specific principles, and which can be modelled in terms of explicit, formally-specified systems.

Within those broad parameters, our members conduct research in a variety of theoretical and empirical areas:

  • the nature of the structures and systems underlying language users’ linguistic competence, such as the mental lexicon, syntax, phonology, semantics;
  • how these structures and systems may interact, with each other and across languages – taking the view that all language users are in fact multilingual, in the sense of commanding different (more or less closely related) languages, dialects, varieties, and registers;
  • the comparative grammar of those languages, dialects, varieties, and registers, exploring the breadth (and limits) of linguistic variation;
  • acquisition of first, second, third, and additional languages; which kinds of linguistic systems learners hypothesize or induce (and which they do not);
  • how changes in the input may lead to changes in mental linguistic systems within individuals and between generations

The group unites researchers with these perspectives in the English, French, German, Nordic and Spanish sections of the department. Members of the group participate in a variety of other groups and projects, including CLIMA, GenVAC, eScApeS, and VOCLEX.

Through discussion of ongoing and planned research between linguists with different research perspectives and foci, different language specializations, and at different career stages, the aim of ForMAAL is to act as an incubator and a support system for individual and collaborative research projects within the group.