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A tale of two theories: response to Fisher

By Michael Tomasello and Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Abstract

1. Introduction\ud \ud 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

Topics: BF, P1
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1016/s0010-0277(01)00172-x
OAI identifier: oai:kar.kent.ac.uk:25331

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