Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition

By Megan R. Gunnar; Michael Maratsos | Go to book overview

2 Modularity and Constraints in Early Lexical Acquisition: Evidence From Children's Early Language and Gesture

Laura Ann Petitto McGill University


THE ONTOGENY OF LANGUAGE AND GESTURE

Only one explanation of human language ontogeny fully accounts for over a decade of findings in my laboratory concerning signing and speaking children's use of early lexical and gestural forms: Humans are born with a predisposition to discover particular sized units with particular distributional patterns in the input, guided by innately specified structural constraints (e.g., Jusczyk, 1986; Petitto, 1984, 1985a, 1985b, 1987; Pinker, 1984; Pinker & Bloom, 1990). At birth, this nascent structure-seeking mechanism is sensitive to the patterned organization of natural language phonology common to all world languages (e.g., Fernald et al., 1989), be they spoken or signed (e.g., rhythmic, temporal, and hierarchical organization) and is particularly sensitive to structures in the input that correspond to the size and distributional patterns of the syllable in spoken and signed languages (e.g., Mehler & Fox, 1985; Petitto & Marentette, 1991a). Irrespective of whether an infant is exposed to spoken or signed languages, this nascent structure-seeking mechanism is capable of utilizing whichever channel (or modality) is receiving the structured input--and it will do so without any modification, loss, or delay to the timing, sequence, and maturational course associated with reaching all linguistic milestones in language acquisition (e.g., Petitto, 1984, 1985a, 1985b, 1986, 1987, 1988; Petitto & Marentette, 1990, 1991b), providing systematic language exposure begins very early (preferably at birth). For example, deaf children acquiring signed languages from birth and hearing children acquiring spoken languages from birth achieve all linguistic

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Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Constraints, Modules, and Domain Specificity: An Introduction 1
  • References 23
  • 2 - Modularity and Constraints in Early Lexical Acquisition: Evidence from Children's Early Language and Gesture 25
  • References 55
  • 3 - Constraints on Word Learning: Speculations About Their Nature, Origins, and Domain Specificity 59
  • Acknowledgments 95
  • References 96
  • 4 - The Origins of an Autonomous Biology 103
  • Acknowledgments 135
  • Acknowledgments 135
  • 5 - Language, Affect, and Social Order 139
  • Appendix 172
  • Acknowledgments 176
  • References 176
  • 6 - The Logical and Extrinsic Sources of Modularity 179
  • References 209
  • 7 - Beyond Modules 213
  • 8 - What Do Developmental Psychologists Really Want? 221
  • References 231
  • Author Index 233
  • Subject Index 239
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