A Developmental-Functionalist Approach to Child Language

A Developmental-Functionalist Approach to Child Language

A Developmental-Functionalist Approach to Child Language

A Developmental-Functionalist Approach to Child Language

Synopsis

Although there has been much empirical study within what has been referred to as "functional approaches to child language," there has yet to be a major attempt to compare and contrast such proposals. In addition, much of the work carried out within child language from a functionalist perspective has not been specific with regard to the nature of the approach adopted. In attempting to fill the gap, the author of this book begins with a comparison of various functionalist approaches. By concentrating on one domain -- agentivity and control -- Budwig develops a set of research questions based on an examination of findings stemming from linguistics, psycholinguistics, and developmental psychology, and also provides an in-depth discussion of related methodological issues. In the second part of the book, she traces the development of linguistic means to refer to oneself within a developmental-functionalist perspective. Individual case studies as well as group analyses of six children in the early phases of acquiring English grammar are provided. In the last part, Budwig examines the relationship between forms and functions in development with special attention to potential generalizations about the organization and reorganization of the children's linguistic systems.

Excerpt

The work reported in this volume began during my final years as a doctoral student at University of California, Berkeley. At the time the work began, it seemed clear to me what a functionalist position was and what it wasn't, and I felt convinced that as an approach, it provided an excellent account of children's development of language. As I moved away from Berkeley, and as I traveled around to talk about my research, what had once seemed so clear was becoming more fuzzy. It was at that point that I decided to write this book, not so much as an explication of a coherent approach, but more as a way to clarify for myself, what others had meant by functionalism, the relative strengths of such an approach as an account for children's language development, and where further work needed to be done.

In reviewing what others had said about functionalist accounts of language in general, and functionalist accounts of child language in particular, it seemed to me that much of the explicit discussion centered around the issue of what one takes the domain of language to be. That is, most of the work seemed focused on describing a view of language as a nonautonomous system. the first chapter of this book summarizes such research, reviewing the extent to which child language researchers have picked up on trends found in functional linguistic theorizing.

A common theme among the functionalist child language literature is that children's earliest use of grammatical forms is linked to the ways they interact with the world. in chapter 2, I suggest that if we are to take this claim seriously, we must not only focus on the ways languages link forms with particular semantic and pragmatic meanings, but also weigh such knowledge in light of what research in the area of social and cognitive development . . .

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