Steps to Language: Toward a Theory of Native Language Acquisition

Steps to Language: Toward a Theory of Native Language Acquisition

Steps to Language: Toward a Theory of Native Language Acquisition

Steps to Language: Toward a Theory of Native Language Acquisition

Excerpt

About 4 years ago it occurred to me that a collection of my previous articles might be published in book form. The articles I had in mind represented my work on the theory of language acquisition, spanning over a decade and including early presentations of my approach as well as later modifications of it. I had no idea then that I would end up writing a new book instead, containing a far more developed version of my theory. In retrospect, I find that most of the "blame" must be put on the man with whom I also published my previous book, Lawrence Erlbaum. When I laid before him my plans for the collection, he was encouraging as usual, but suggested that I do a little more than I had intended, to weld the papers together into a text. He also intimated that I might want to rewrite some of the papers or parts of them. That started it.

Not all of the material in this book is new, however. Chapter 3 includes one of my earliest papers on language acquisition and part of a later paper, almost without change. I could have reworked these, too, so as to reflect better my present views and integrate empirical findings that have become available in the meantime, but this would have meant losing some of the flavor of novelty, which attached to what is now sometimes called "the semantic revolution" at its inception. Furthermore, these papers contain at an embryonic stage some of the notions more fully developed in later chapters of this book, and their inclusion may serve, therefore, to give a good picture of how the theory developed. Chapter 4, which has also been published previously, treats one of the central themes of the book: the role of language learning vis-à-vis that of prior cognitive development.

Part I contains two background chapters dealing with previous approaches to language acquisition and the two just-mentioned chapters, and presents the main themes of the book. These are systematically expounded in Part II. I have tried to make each chapter self-contained as far as possible, so that each of the nine chapters can be read by itself as an independent study.

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