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A tale of two theories: response to Fisher

Tomasello, Michael, Abbot-Smith, Kirsten (2002) A tale of two theories: response to Fisher. Cognition, 83 (2). pp. 207-214. ISSN 0010-0277. (doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(01)00172-X) (KAR id:25331)


1. Introduction

There are currently two theories about how children acquire a language. The first is generative grammar, according to which all human children innately possess a universal grammar, abstract enough to structure any language of the world. Acquisition then consists of two processes: (1) acquiring all the words, idioms, and quirky constructions of the particular language being learned (by ‘normal’ processes of learning); and (2) linking the particular language being learned to the abstract universal grammar. Because it is innate, universal grammar does not develop ontogenetically but is the same throughout the lifespan – this is the so-called continuity assumption (Pinker, 1984). This assumption allows generativists to use adult-like formal grammars to describe children's language and so to assume that the first time a child utters, for example, “I wanna play”, she has an adult-like understanding of infinitival complement sentences and so can generate ‘similar’ infinitival complement sentences ad infinitum.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/S0010-0277(01)00172-X
Additional information: ISI Document Delivery No.: 531LD Times Cited: 22 Cited Reference Count: 35 Elsevier science bv Amsterdam
Uncontrolled keywords: young-children word-order productivity morphology learn verbs
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Kirsten Abbot-Smith
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2010 15:03 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Abbot-Smith, Kirsten.

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