Geraldine Legendre

Interim Chair 2014 - 15

Office:  249 Krieger Hall
Office Hours:  By Appointment
Lab Website: The Language Acquisition Lab

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Research Interests

  • Theoretical linguistics, in particular:
    • Syntax, role of optimization in syntax.
    • Architecture of the grammar.
    • Interfaces between syntax, morphology, lexical semantics and phonology.
    • Cross-linguistic variation in syntax and morphology (e.g. Romance, Balkan languages).
  •  Acquisition of early (morpho)syntax, in particular:
    • Functional categories (tense, aspect, agreement).
    • Role of optimization in the process of acquisition.
    • Stages of development.
    • Relation between early comprehension and production.
  • General cognitive architecture underlying the language faculty.


050.240            The World of Language (Introduction to Linguistics with Fieldwork)
050.320/620     Syntax I: GB
050.321/620     Syntax II: OT Syntax
050.822            Research seminar in syntax (topics vary)
050.825            Research seminar in OT (topics vary)
050.827            Research seminar in acquisition (topics vary)

Selected Publications


Smolensky, P. and G. Legendre. 2006. The Harmonic Mind. MIT Press. 2 volumes.

Legendre, G., J. Grimshaw, & S. Vikner (eds.). 2001. Optimality-theoretic Syntax. MIT Press.

Legendre, G.  1994. Topics in French Syntax. Garland Publishing Co., New York.


Culbertson, J. and Legendre, G. in press.  Prefixal agreement and impersonal il in Spoken French: Experimental evidence. Journal of French Language Studies. 

Culbertson, J and G. Legendre In press. Investigating the evolution of agreement systems using an artificial language learning paradigm. Proceedings of the Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL).

Legendre, G., J. Culbertson, E. Zaroukian, L. Hsin, I. Barriere, and T. Nazzi. In press. Is children’s comprehension of subject-verb agreement universally late? Comparative evidence from French, English, and Spanish. In Lingua (Special Issue, AT Perez-Leroux, Ed.), How children learn to detect and interpret agreement morphology: A cross-linguistic perspective.

Hsin, L., Legendre, G., and  Omaki, A. 2013. Priming Cross-Linguistic Interference in Spanish-English Bilingual Children. BUCLD 37 Proceedings (Vol. 1), Cascadilla Press, 165-177.

Rissman, L., Legendre, G., Landau, B. 2013. Abstract morphosyntax in two and three-year- old children: evidence from priming. Language Learning and Development, 9(3), 278-292.

Culbertson, J., Smolensky, P., and Legendre, G. 2012. Learning biases predict a word order universal. Cognition, 122:306–329.

Legendre, G. & P. Smolensky.  2012. On the asymmetrical difficulty of acquiring person reference with personal pronouns: From unidirectional to bidirectional OT. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, 21:7-30.

Barriere, I, Goyet, L., Kresh, S., Nazzi, T., & Legendre, G. 2011.The representation of subject-verb agreement in French-learning toddlers: New evidence from the comprehension of an infrequent pattern  of pseudo-verbs. Proceedings of the 35th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, Cascadilla Press. 38-48.

Nazzi, T, Barriere, I, Goyet, L., Kresh, S. Culbertson, J.,. & Legendre, G. 2011. Tracking irregular morpho-phonological dependencies in natural language: Evidence from the acquisition of subject-verb agreement in French. Cognition, 120, 119-135.

Legendre, G., I. Barrière, L. Goyet, & T.  Nazzi. 2011. On the acquisition of implicated presuppositions: Evidence from French personal pronouns. Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2010). Cascadilla Press. 150-162.

Legendre, G. & M. Schindler. 2010. Code Switching in Urban Wolof: A Case for Violable Constraints in Syntax. Revista Virtual de Estudos da Linguagem (ReVEL), 8:4 (Special Issue on Optimality Theoretic Syntax). Online at

Legendre, G. & A. Sorace. to appear/2010?Auxiliaries and Intransitivity in French and in Romance. In D. Godard (Ed.) The Romance languages. CSLI Publications.

Legendre, G., I. Barriere, L. Goyet, & T. Nazzi. 2010. Comprehension of infrequent subject-verb agreement forms: Evidence from French-learning children. Child Development. 81:6, 1859–1875.

Legendre, G., J. Culbertson, I. Barriere, T. Nazzi, & L. Goyet. 2010. Experimental and empirical evidence for the status and acquisition of subject clitics and agreement marking in adult and child Spoken French.  In Torrens, V., Escobar, L., Gavarro, A., J.G. Mangado (eds.) Movement and Clitics. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Legendre, G. 2010. A Formal Typology of Person-Based Auxiliary Selection in Italo-Romance.  In R. D’Alessandro, A. Ledgeway, and I. Robert, (eds.) Syntactic Variation: The dialects of Italy. Cambridge University Press.  186-200.

Legendre, G. and P. Smolensky. 2010. French inchoatives and the unaccusativity hypothesis. In D. Gerdts, J. Moore, and M. Polinsky (Eds.). Hypothesis A/Hypothesis B: Linguistic Explorations in Honor of David M. Perlmutter. MIT Press, 229-246.

Legendre, G. 2009. The Neutralization Approach to Ineffability in Syntax. In C. Rice & S. Blaho (eds.) Modeling Ungrammaticality in Optimality Theory. Equinox. 237-266.

Schindler, M., G. Legendre, C. Wilson and A. Mbaye. 2008. Violations of the PF Disjunction Theorem in Urban Wolof. Proceedings of CLS 44.

Culbertson, J. & G. Legendre. 2008. Qu’en est-il des clitiques sujet en français oral contemporain? In J. Durand, B. Habert, & B. Laks (Eds.), Actes du 1er Congrès Mondial de Linguistique Française. Paris : EDP Sciences, 2651-2662.

Legendre, G. 2007. On the Typology of Auxiliary Selection. Lingua 117:9, 1522-1540.

Legendre, G. 2007.  Optimizing Auxiliary Selection in Romance. In R. Aranovich (ed.) Split Auxiliary Systems: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. John Benjamins. 145-180.

Legendre, G., T. Nazzi, I. Barrière, Jennifer Culbertson, L. Goyet, M. Lopez-Gonzalez, and E. Zaroukian. 2006.  Acquiring Subject-verb Agreement in French: Evidence for Abstract Knowledge from Comprehension. Proceedings of BUCLD 31, Boston.

Legendre, G. 2006. Early Child Grammars: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Morphosyntactic Production. Cognitive Science 30:5, 803-835.

Legendre, G., P. Hagstrom, J. Chen-Main, L. Tao, and P. Smolensky. 2004. Deriving Output Probabilities  in Child Mandarin from a Dual-Optimization Grammar. Lingua, Vol. 114/9-10, 1147-1185.  

Hale, J. and G. Legendre. 2004. Minimal Links, Remnant Movement, and (Non)-derivational Grammar. In Arthur Stepanov, Gisbert Fanselow and Ralf Vogel (eds.), Minimality Effects in Syntax. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.177-204

Legendre, G. and A. Sorace. 2003. Auxiliaires et intransivité en français et dans les langues romanes. In Danièle Godard (ed.) Les langues romanes: problèmes de la phrase simple. Paris: CNRS éditions. 185-233.

Davidson, L. and G. Legendre. 2003. Defaults and Competition in the Acquisition of Functional Categories in Catalan and French. In Rafael Nuñez-Cedeño, Luis López & Richard Cameron, (eds.), A Romance Perspective on Language Knowledge and Use. 273-290.

Legendre, G. 2003. Optimality Theory in Syntax. In W. Frawley (Editor in Chief). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (Second Edition). Oxford University Press.

Legendre, G. 2003. What are Clitics? Evidence from Balkan Languages. Phonological Studies (Journal  of the Phonological Society of Japan). Vol. 6: 89-96.

Legendre, G, A. Vainikka, P. Hagstrom, and M. Todorova. 2002. Partial Constraint Ordering in Child French Syntax. Language Acquisition 10(3), 189-227.

Hagstrom, P., J. Chen-Main, G. Legendre, and L. Tao. 2002. Default ne in Child Mandarin Chinese. Korean Journal of Cognitive Science. 81-118.

Legendre, G, P. Hagstrom, L. Tao, J. Chen, and L. Davidson. 2001. A Preliminary Look at the Acquisition of Aspect in Mandarin Chinese in OT. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Cognitive Science. L. Chen and Y. Zhuo, (eds.), Press of University of Science and Technology of China. 398-405.

Legendre, G. 2001. Introduction to OT syntax. In G. Legendre, S. Vikner, and J. Grimshaw, (eds.), OT Syntax. MIT Press. 1-27.

Legendre, G. 2001. Masked V2 Effects and the Linearization of Functional Features. In G. Legendre, S. Vikner, and J. Grimshaw, (eds.), OT Syntax. MIT Press. 241-277.

Legendre, G, P. Hagstrom, A. Vainikka, and M. Todorova. 2000.  Evidence for syntactic competition in the acquisition of tense and agreement in child French. In A. Okrent and J. P. Boyle (eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Chicago Linguistics Society Meeting, 431–443.

Legendre, G, P. Hagstrom, A. Vainikka, and M. Todorova. 2000.  An OT model of Acquisition of Tense  and Agreement in French. In  L. Gleitman  and A. Joshi (eds.) Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. 292-297.

Legendre, G. 2000. For an OT Conception of a Parallel Interface: Evidence from Basque V2. In  M. Hirotani, A. Coetzee, N. Hall, and J.-Y. Kim (eds.). Proceedings of  the 30th Conference of the North East Linguistic Society. GLSA Publications.

Legendre, G. 2000. Positioning Romanian Verbal Clitics at PF: An Optimality-Theoretic Analysis. In  B. Gerlach and J. Grijzenhout, (eds.). Clitics from Different Perspectives. Johns Benjamins. 219-254.

Legendre, G. 2000. Morphological and Prosodic Alignment of Bulgarian Clitics. In J. Dekkers, F. van der Leeuw, and J. van de Weijer, (eds.). Optimality Theory: Syntax, Phonology, and Acquisition. Oxford University Press. 423-462.

Legendre,G. 2000. Optimal Romanian Clitics: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. In V. Motapanyane, (ed.), Comparative Studies in Romanian Syntax. Oxford: Elsevier, North Holland Linguistic Series 58. 227-264.

Vainikka, A., G. Legendre, and M. Todorova. 1999. PLU Stages: An Independent Measure of Early Syntactic Development. Technical Report: JHU-CogSci-99-10.

Legendre, G. 1999. Morphological and Prosodic Alignment at Work: The Case of South-Slavic Clitics. In S.J. Blake, E.-S. Kim, and K.N. Shahin, (eds.). Proceedings of WCCFL XVII. CSLI Publications, Stanford University. 436-450.

Legendre, G. 1998. Second Position Clitics in a V2 Language: Conflict Resolution in Macedonian. In J. Austin and A. Lawson, (eds.). Proceedings of the 1997 ESCOL Meeting. CLC Publications, Cornell University. 139-149.

Legendre, G., P. Smolensky, and C. Wilson. 1998.  When is Less More? Faithfulness and Minimal Links in Wh-Chains. In Is the Best Good Enough? Optimality and Competition in Syntax (P. Barbosa, D. Fox, P. Hagstrom, M. McGinnis, and D. Pesetsky, eds). MIT Press. 249-289.

Legendre, G. 1997. Secondary Predication and Functional Projections in French. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 15.1.1-45.

Legendre, G, C. Wilson, P. Smolensky, K. Homer, and W. Raymond. 1995. Optimality and Wh-Extraction. In Papers in Optimality Theory (J. Beckman, L. Walsh Dickey, and S. Urbanczyk, eds.) University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers 18. GLSA, UMass, Amherst, 607-636.

Legendre, G. 1995. Causee Prominence Constraints in French and Elsewhere.  Grammatical Relations: Theoretical Approaches to Empirical Questions (C.S. Burgess, K. Dziwirek, and D. Gerdts, eds.). CSLI Publications, Stanford University. 291-308.

Education & Experience

Ph.D., Linguistics, University of California - San Diego, 1987
M.A. Linguistics, University of California - San Diego, 1984
Licence es Lettres (Anglais), Université de Tours, Trance, 1974
Academic Positions

  • Professor, Department of Cognitive Science, Johns Hopkins University, 2000 present.
  • Visiting Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Paris at Nanterre, January & May 2004.
  • Visiting Scientist, Groupe Cognition & Developpement, Centre de la Recherche Scientifique, Université de Paris 5. Long-term collaborative project on the acquisition of French syntax by 2-year olds. (With Isabelle Barrière/Yeled V’Yalda Research Institute, NY and Thierry Nazzi/Université de Paris 5).
  • Visiting Scientist, Pioneer Project/Department of Linguistics, University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands), June-July 2002
  • Associate Professor, Department of Cognitive Science, Johns Hopkins University, 1995–2000.
  • Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Colorado, 1994–1995.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Colorado, 1987–1994.