The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition - Vol. 5

The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition - Vol. 5

The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition - Vol. 5

The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition - Vol. 5

Excerpt

In this fifth volume, we attempt to "expand the contexts" in which child language has been examined crosslinguistically. The chapters open themes that have been touched on, anticipated, and promised in earlier volumes of this series. The study of child language has been situated in the disciplines of psychology and linguistics and has been most responsive to dominant issues in those fields, such as nativism and learning, comprehension and production, errors, input, and universals of morphology and syntax. The context has been, primarily, that of the individual child, interacting with a parent, deciphering the linguistic code. In these volumes, the code has been generally treated as a system of morphology and syntax, with little attention to phonology and prosody. Attention has been paid, occasionally, to the facts that the child is acquiring language in a sociocultural setting and that language is used in contexts of semantic and pragmatic communication. And there has been a degree of attention paid to the interactions between language and cognition in the processes of development. As for individual differences between children, they have been discussed in those studies where they could not be avoided, but such variation has rarely been the focus of systematic attention. Differences between individual languages have been of great interest, of course, but these differences have not often been placed in a framework of systematic typological variation. And although languages, and their grammars, change over time, the focus of attention on the individual child learner has generally led to neglect of explanatory principles that are best found on the level of linguistic diachrony, rather than the level of innate ideas or patterns of learning and cognition in the individual child. Here we seek to explore some of these neglected contexts in more depth.

In my introductory chapter, "The Universal, the Typological, and the Particular in Acquisition," I propose that languages--and the processes by which they are acquired and used--fall into typological patterns. That is, each language is not totally different from every other, and the tasks of acquisition do not vary without limit. I suggest a mission for the crosslinguistic study of child language: "THE CHARTING OF CROSSLINGUISTIC DIVERSITY IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND THE

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