Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk

Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk

Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk

Growing Up with Language: How Children Learn to Talk

Synopsis

Linguistics professor Naomi Baron applies her professional expertise to the study of how children master the skill of language, a book that is "not just accessible but actually enjoyable for the average reader... (with) useful information on how humans create speech and language" (Bloomsbury Review).

Excerpt

Authors have personal odysseys shaping what their books are about and the covert agendas lingering beneath their surfaces. These are some highlights from my own journey.

Theory and Practice

My studies in human language began as an undergraduate at Brandeis University. At the time, Noam Chomsky was formulating his theory of transformational grammar down the river at MIT. Most of my teachers were devotees of Chomsky's work, and I commuted weekly to Cambridge to hear the master lecture. My first linguistics text was Chomsky's Aspects of the Theory of Syntax--hot off the press--which propounded an approach to language that was to dominate the field for more than a decade after its publication in 1965.

Chomsky's focus was on the abstract ways we put language pieces together to form sentences. In an attempt to define the grammatical abilities of a mythical Everyman, he dismissed most other aspects of human language. How individuals vary, what role the community plays in language development and use, how and why languages change: all of these vital questions were lopped off to fit Chomsky's procrustean bed. And like others of his time, Chomsky took speech as the exclusive object of study, dismissing written and signed language as irrelevant to linguistic theory.

My rebellion against this framework took shape during graduate training at Stanford University. There, a distinguished and diverse faculty encouraged the more daring--or foolhardy--among us to forge our own discipline. Over the next two decades, I probed individual and social causes that bring about language change. I tried to understand . . .

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