Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition

Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition


By (author) Michael Tomasello

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  • Format: Paperback | 408 pages
  • Dimensions: 146mm x 234mm x 24mm | 640g
  • Publication date: 31 March 2005
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674017641
  • ISBN 13: 9780674017641
  • Edition statement: Revised ed.
  • Illustrations note: 19 line illustrations, 16 tables
  • Sales rank: 183,425

Product description

Drawing together a vast body of empirical research in cognitive science, linguistics, and developmental psychology, Michael Tomasello demonstrates that we don't need a self-contained "language instinct" to explain how children learn language. Their linguistic ability is interwoven with other cognitive abilities. Tomasello argues that the essence of language is its symbolic dimension, which rests on the uniquely human ability to comprehend intention. Grammar emerges as the speakers of a language create linguistic constructions out of recurring sequences of symbols, children pick up these patterns in the buzz of words they hear around them. Constructing a Language offers a compellingly argued, psychologically sound new vision for the study of language acquisition.

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Author information

Michael Tomasello is Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He is the author of First Verbs and the coauthor of Primate Cognition.

Review quote

Tomasello offers an extended and detailed exposition of his 'usage-based' theory of language acquisition, which he contrasts to nativist or 'universal grammar' theories such as those of Noam Chomsky and of Steven Pinker...Throughout this masterfully written but stylistically and intellectually dense book, Tomasello reports extensively on current research and looks critically at the assumptions and assertions of his contemporaries. -- L. Bebout Choice 20031101

Table of contents

*1. A Puzzle and a Hypothesis *2. Biological and Cultural Inheritance *3. Joint Attention and Cultural Learning *4. Linguistic Communication and Symbolic Representation *5. Linguistic Constructions and Event Cognition *6. Discourse and Representational Redescription *7. Cultural Cognition * References * Index