The primary focus of my research is language acquisition in children, especially the early acquisition of syntax and morphosyntax. My work spans many areas of language development including the development of functional structure in early grammar (e.g. null subjects, verb inflection and root infinitives), aspect and eventivity, binding principles and control,  ergativity and auxiliary selection in Romance, and most recently, raising structures and evidentiality. I think that cross-linguistic comparisons are very revealing of the processes underlying language acquisition and so with the collaboration of my many students and colleagues I have studied development in various languages including English, Italian, Greek, Dutch, German, Swahili, Japanese, Icelandic, Malagasy, Cape Verdean Creole, European Portuguese, among others, using both naturalistic and experimental techniques. In my work I attempt to explore the interaction of different components of language in development, for example, at the interface of syntax and semantics/pragmatics, as well as the effects of production vs. comprehension of early language. I am especially interested in models of Universal Grammar and parameter setting and their role in actual language development.



  • Santos, A., Gonçalves, A. Hyams, N.  To appear.  Aspects of the Acquisition of Control and ECM-type verbs in European Portuguese. Language Acquisition. DOI:10.1080/10489223.2015.1067320. [pdf]
  • Mateu, V. & Hyams, N. To appear. One is the Loneliest Number: The acquisition of Spanish indefinite’ un’. Proceeedings of Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition (GALANA) 6. Cascadilla Press, Somerville MA.[pdf]
  • Winans, L. Hyams, N. Kalin, L & Rett, J. To appear. Children’s Comprehension of Syntactically Encoded Evidentiality. Proceedings of NELS 45. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. & Orfitelli, R. 2015. The Acquisition of Syntax. In H. Cairns & E. Fernandez (eds.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Wiley/Blackwell Publishers. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. , Mateu, V., Ortfitelli, R., Putnam, M., Rothman, J., & Sánchez, L. 2015. Parameters in Language Acquisition and Contact.. In A. Fábregas, J. Mateu, J. & M. Putnam. (eds.), Contemporary Handbook of Linguistic Parameters. London, Bloomsbury [pdf]
  • Snyder, W. &  Hyams, N. 2015. Mimimality Effects in Children’s Passives [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2014. Does Morphology Drive Syntax?: Evidence from L1 Acquisition. in C. Schutze & L. Stockall (eds.) UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 18. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Non-Commercial License. ( [pdf]
  • Santos, A., Goncalves, A. Hyams, N. 2014. Aspects of the Acquisition of Control and ECM-type verbs in European Portuguese. Proceedings of GALA 2013. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press. [pdf]


  • Rett, J., & Hyams, N. 2013. The acquisition of syntactically coded evidentiality. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics 21 (2), 173-198. [pdf]
  • Rett, J., Hyams, N. & Winans, L. 2013. The Effects of Syntax on Evidentiality. Proceedings of BUCLD 37. [pdf]


  • Orfitelli, R. & Hyams, N. 2012. Children’s Grammar of Null Subjects: Evidence from comprehension. Linguistic Inquiry 43,4; 563-590.[pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 2012. Eventivity Effects in Early Grammar: The case of non-finite verbs. In J. Rothman and P. Guijarro-Fuentes (eds.) Language Acquisition at the Interfaces, First Language 32, 239-269. [pdf] 


  • Hyams, N. 2011. Missing Subjects in Early child Language, in J. De Villiers and T. Roeper (eds.), Handbook of Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition, Springer, Dordrecht. [pdf]


  • Charnavel, I., F. Adani & Hyams, N. 2009. The Online Processing of French Reflexives: Experimental evidence for an unaccusative analysis, Proceedings of the Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics 2009. [pdf]
  • Pratas, F. & Hyams, N. 2009. Introduction to the acquisition of finiteness in Capeverdean. In Castro, A. J. Costa, M Lobo, and F. Pratas. Language Acquisition and Development: Proceedings of GALANA 2009. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2008. The acquisition of inflection: A parameter-setting approach, Language Acquisition 15. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 2008. Reflections on Motherese, in T. Sano, Miwa Isobe, Mika Endo, Koichi Otaki, Koji Sugisaki, Takeru Suzuki .(eds), Enterprise in the Cognitive Science of Language: Festshrift in honor of Yukio Otsu. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. & Schaeffer, J. 2008. Auxiliary and clitic omissions in Italian children’s participle constructions, in J. Freitas and A. Gavarro (eds.) Proceeding of GALA 2007, Cambridge University Scholars Press, Cambridge. [pdf]
  • Orfitelli, R. & Hyams, N. 2008. An Experimental Study of Children’s Comprehension of Null Subjects: Implications for Grammatical/ Performance Accounts. In H. Chan, H. Jacob, & E. Kapia (Eds.) Proceedings of the 32nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, volume 2, 335-346. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2007. Aspect Matters. In Deen, K.U., J. Nomura, B. Schulz & B.D. Schwartz (Eds.), Proceedings of the Inaugural Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition -North America (GALANA). Cambridge, MA, UCONN/MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. [word doc]
  • Hyams, N. 2007. Aspectual Effects on Interpretation in Early Grammar. Language Acquisition 14, 3. [pdf]
  • Salustri, M. & Hyams, N. 2007. The Imperative as RI Analogue: New data and competing theories, in Deen, K.U., J. Nomura, B. Schultz and B.D. Schwartz eds., Proceedings of the Inaugural Conference of Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition. North America (GALANA). MITWPL; Cambridge, MA. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2006. An RI Stage in Malagasy? Implications for the adult grammar. Language Acquisition and Development. Proceedings of GALA 2005, Adriana Belletti, Elisa Bennati, Cristiano Chesi, Elisa DiDomenico and Ida Ferrari eds., Cambridge UK: Cambridge Scholars Press. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. Ntelitheos, D. & Manorohanta, C. 2006. The Acquisition of the Malagasy Voicing System: Implications for the adult grammar, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 24;4. [pdf]
  • Salustri, M. and Hyams, N. 2006. Looking for the Universal Core of the RI Stage. In Torrens, V.,Escobar, L. (Eds.) The Acquisition of Syntax in Romance Languages Amsterdam: John Benjamins.[pdf]
  • Deen, K. & Hyams, N. 2006. The Morphosyntax of Mood in Early Grammar with Special Reference to Swahili. First Language, 26;1. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2005. Child Non-finite Clauses and the Mood-Aspect Connection: Evidence from Child Greek. In R. Slabakova & P. Kempchinsky (eds.) Aspectual Inquiries, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. [pdf]


  • Gilkerson, J., Hyams, N & Curtiss, S. 2003. On the scope of negation: More evidence for early parameter setting. Procedeedings of GALA 10, LOT, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. [pdf]
  • Salustri, M. & Hyams, N. 2003. Is there an analogue to the RI stage in the null subject languages. BUCLD 27. Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]
  • Torrence, H. & Hyams, N. 2003. On the Role of Aspect in Determining Finiteness and Temporal Interpretation in Early Grammar. In J. van Kampen and S. Bauuw (eds.). Proceedings of GALA. LOT, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. [pdf]


  • Deen, K. U, & Hyams, N. 2002. The Form and Interpretation of Finite and Non-finite Verbs in Swahili, BUCLD 26, Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 2002. Clausal Structure in Child Greek: A reply to Varlokosta, Vainikka and Rohrbacher and a reanalysis, The Linguistic Review 19. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 2001. Now you hear it, now you don’t: The Nature of Optionality in Child Language, Proceedings of BUCLD 25, Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]
  • Thrift, E. & Hyams, N. 2001. The Role of Aspect in Licensing Object Drop in Child Dutch. Proceedings of BUCLD 25, Sommerville, MA.[pdf]


  • Becker, M. & Hyams, N. 2000. Modal Reference in Children’s Root Infinitives, Proceedings of the Language Research Forum 30, Stanford, CSLI. [pdf]


  • Hoekstra, T. & Hyams, N. 1999. The Eventivity Constraint and Modal Reference Effect in Root Infinitives, Proceedings of BUCLD 23, Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]


  • Hoekstra, T. & Hyams, N. 1998. Aspects of Root Infinitives. Lingua 106, 81-112. [pdf]
  • Hoekstra, T. & Hyams. N. 1998. Agreement and Finiteness of V2: Evidence from Child Language. Proceedings of BUCLD 22, Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]


  • Hoekstra, T., Hyams, N. and Becker, M. 1997. The Underspecification of Number and the Licensing of Root Infinitives, Proceedings of BUCLD 21, Cascadilla Press, Sommerville, MA. [pdf]


  • Hoekstra, T. & Hyams, N. 1996. Missing Heads in Child Language. Proceedings of GALA II (Groningen Assembly on Language Acquisition). [pdf]


  • Hoekstra, T. & Hyams, N. 1995. The Syntax and Interpretation of Dropped Categories in Child Language: A unified account. Proceedings of WCCFL XIV. [pdf]
  • Snyder, W., Hyams, N. & Crisma, P. 1995. Romance Auxiliary Selection with Reflexive Clitics: Evidence of early knowledge of Unaccusativity. Proceedings of Child Language Research Forum 26, Stanford CSLI. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1994. V2, Null arguments and C-Projections, in T. Hoekstra and B. Schwartz (eds.) Language Acquisition Studies in Generative Grammar, Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishers. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1994. Nondiscreteness and Variation in Child Language: Implications for Principle and Parameter Models of Language Development, in Y. Levy (ed.), Other Children, Other Languages, Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1994. Null Subjects in Child Language and the Implications of Cross-Linguistic variation, in B. Lust, G. Hermon & J. Kornfilt (eds.) Syntactic Theory and Language Acquisition: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives, Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1994. The Underspecification of Functional Categories in Early Grammar. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. & Wexler, K. 1993. The Grammatical Basis of Null Subjects in Child Language, Linguistic Inquiry, 24. [pdf]
  • Jaeggli, O. & Hyams, N. 1993. Aspectual Come and Go, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 11. [pdf]


  • Sigurjonsdottir, S. & Hyams, N. 1992. The Subset Principle and the Acquisition of the ‘Long Distance’ Reflexive SIG in Icelandic, in Proceedings of ESCOL IV, Ohio State University. [pdf]
  • Sigurjonsdottir, S. & Hyams, N. 1992. Reflexivization and Logophoricity: Evidence from the Acquisition of Icelandic, Language Acquisition 2, 4. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1992. A Reanalysis of Null Subjects in Child Language, in Weissenborn et al (eds). Theoretical Issues in Language Acquisition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, NJ. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1992. The Genesis of Clausal Structure, in J. Meisel (ed.) The Acquisition of Verb Placement; Functional Categories and V2 Phenomena in Language Development. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1992. Morphological Development in Italian and its Relevance to Parameter- setting models: Comments on the Paper by Pizzuto and Caselli, Journal of Child Language 19, 3. [pdf]


  • Sigurjonsdottir, S. & Hyams, N. 1990. The Development of ‘Long Distance Anaphora’: A Cross Linguistic Comparison with Special Reference to Icelandic, Language Acquisition, 1, 2 [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1989. The Null Subject Parameter in Language Acquisition, in K. Safir and O. Jaeggli (eds.), The Null Subject Parameter, D. Reidel, Dordrecht. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1988. A Principles and Parameters Approach to the Study of Child Language, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 27:153 161, Stanford University Press, Stanford University. Reprinted in Cunyforum: A Festschrift for D. T. Langendoen. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1988. The Core/Periphery Distinction in Language Acquisition, Proceedings of the Eastern States Conference on Linguistics, vol. 4. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. & Jaeggli, O. 1988. Morphological Uniformity and the Setting of the Null Subject Parameter, Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistic Society (NELS), vol. 17 [pdf]
  • Sigurjonsdottir, S., Hyams, N., and Chien, Y-C. 1988. The Acquisition of Reflexives and Pronouns by Icelandic Children, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 27:97 106, Stanford University Press, Stanford University. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1986. The Acquisition of Clausal Complementation, Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, vol. 4. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1986. The Intepretation and Acquisition of Italian Impersonal si, in H. Borer (ed.), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 19. Academic Press, New York. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1984. Semantically Based Child Grammars: Some Empirical Inadequacies, Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, 23:58 65, Stanford University Press, Stanford University. [pdf]
  • Hyams, N. 1984. The Acquisition of Infinitival Complements: A reply to Bloom, Tackeff and Lahey, Journal of Child Language, 11:679 683. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1983. The Pro Drop Parameter in Child Grammars, Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, vol. 2. [pdf]


  • Hyams, N. 1981. Agreement and the Choice of Auxiliary in Italian, Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistics Society, vol. 11, reprinted as Thematic Constraints on the Choice of Auxiliary, in Studi di Grammatica Italiana, Academic della Crusca, Florence, Italy. [pdf]

Doctoral Students

  • Sharon Hilles, Professor, CalPoly Pomona University, California
    PhD 1989: Access to Universal Grammar in Second Language Acquisition
  • Sigga Sigurjonsdottir, Professor, University of Reykavijk, Iceland
    PhD 1992: Binding in Icelandic: Evidence from Language Acquisition
  • Tetsuya Sano, Professor, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan
    PhD 1995: Roots in Language Acquisition: A Comparative Study of Japanese and European Languages
  • Jeannette Schaeffer, Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    PhD 1997: Direct Object Scrambling in Duthc and Italian Child Language
  • John Grinstead, Associate Professor, Ohio State University
    PhD 1998: Subjects, Sentential Negation and Imperatives in Child Spanish and Catalan
  • Misha Becker, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill
    PhD 2000: The Development of the Copula in Child English: The Lightness of be
  • Kamil Ud Deen, Associate Professor, University of Hawaii, Honolulu Hawaii
    PhD 2002: The Acquisition of Nairobi Swahili: The Morphosyntax of Inflectional Prefixes and Subject
  • Jason Rothman, (Chaired) Professor, University of Reading, Reading, England
  • Jill Gilkerson, Director of Language Research, Infoture, Boulder, Colorado
    PhD 2006: Acquiring English Particle Verbs: Age and transfer effects in L2 acquisition
  • Ana Lucia Santos, Associate Professor, University of Lisbon, Portugal
    PhD 2006: Ellipsis and Focus in the Acquisition of Portuguese
  • Shigeko Sekine, Assistant Professor, California State University/ Monterrey, California
    PhD 2006: The Effects of Phonological and Lexical Factors on Adult Second Language Perception: A Cross-linguistic Study
  • Reiko Okabe, Associate Professor, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
    PhD 2008: The Acquisition of Japanese Causatives
  • Robyn Orfitelli, Lecturer, University of Sheffield, UK
    PhD 2011: Argument intervention and the acquisition of subject-to-subject raising
  • Victoria E. Mateu, Lecturer, UCLA
    PhD 2016: Intervention Effects in the Acquisition of Raising and Control