Cover: Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition, from Harvard University PressCover: Constructing a Language in PAPERBACK

Constructing a Language

A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition

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PAPERBACK

$32.50 • £25.95 • €29.50

ISBN 9780674017641

Publication: March 2005

Short

408 pages

19 line illustrations, 16 tables

World

Tomasello offers an extended and detailed exposition of his ‘usage-based’ theory of language acquisition, which he contrasts to nativist or ‘universal grammar’ theories such as those of Noam Chomsky and of Steven Pinker… Throughout this masterfully written but stylistically and intellectually dense book, Tomasello reports extensively on current research and looks critically at the assumptions and assertions of his contemporaries.—L. Bebout, Choice

Constructing a Language is the best book on language development since Roger Brown’s A First Language. Tomasello has taken full advantage of the research that has been done in the thirty years since Brown’s landmark book, to give us a full account of language acquisition, from the first signs of intentional communication in prespeech through the most complex syntactic constructions children produce. The book rebuilds bridges between child language and linguistic theory—but in place of generative grammar, Tomasello ties the study of emergent language to a usage-based approach derived from cognitive and functional linguistics. He is particularly persuasive in showing how it solves the essential problem of how children ‘get from here to there,’ as they move by analogy from item-based phrases and word islands to richer constructions. Tomasello’s book presents a comprehensive and well-articulated theory of the language-learning process that is more complete and richer in its heuristic value than any other attempt of its kind. It will be difficult to refute and impossible to ignore.—Elizabeth Bates, University of California, San Diego

Certain to be a landmark in the language sciences, this book persuasively argues that all of our fundamental knowledge of language can be ‘learned’ on the basis of what we hear, with recourse only to general basic cognitive abilities: intention reading and pattern-finding. No hard-wired ‘language instinct’ is required. Tomasello’s synthesis of linguistics and psychology will permanently change the debates about the developmental origins of language.—Adele Goldberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign