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Constructing a Language
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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

Promotional Information

Constructing a Language is the best book on language development since Roger Brown's A First Language. Tomasello has taken full advantage of the research that has been done in the thirty years since Brown's landmark book, to give us a full account of language acquisition, from the first signs of intentional communication in prespeech through the most complex syntactic constructions children produce. The book rebuilds bridges between child language and linguistic theory -- but in place of generative grammar, Tomasello ties the study of emergent language to a usage-based approach derived from cognitive and functional linguistics. He is particularly persuasive in showing how it solves the essential problem of how children "get from here to there," as they move by analogy from item-based phrases and word islands to richer constructions. Tomasello's book presents a comprehensive and well-articulated theory of the language-learning process that is more complete and richer in its heuristic value than any other attempt of its kind. It will be difficult to refute and impossible to ignore. -- Elizabeth Bates, University of California at San Diego Certain to be a landmark in the language sciences, this book persuasively argues that all of our fundamental knowledge of language can be "learned" on the basis of what we hear, with recourse only to general basic cognitive abilities: intention reading and pattern-finding. No hard-wired "language instinct" is required. Tomasello's synthesis of linguistics and psychology will permanently change the debates about the developmental origins of language. -- Adele Goldberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

About the Author

Michael Tomasello is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. From 1998 to 2018 he was Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and in 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scientific work has been recognized by institutions around the world, including the Guggenheim Foundation, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Netherlands, and the German National Academy of Sciences.

Reviews

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

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