Language and the Learning Curve: A new theory of syntactic development

Paperback | November 2, 2006

byAnat Ninio

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Language development remains one of the most hotly debated topics in the cognitive sciences. In recent years we have seen contributions to the debate from researchers in psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and philosophy, though there have been surprisingly few interdisciplinaryattempts at unifying the various theories. In Language and the Learning Curve, a leading researcher in the field offers a radical new view of language development. Drawing on formal linguistic theory (the Minimalist Program, Dependency Grammars), cognitive psychology (Skill Learning) computationallinguistics (Zipf curves), and Complexity Theory (networks), it takes the view that syntactic development is a simple process and that syntax can be learned just like any other cognitive or motor skill. In a thought provoking and accessible style, it develops a learning theory of the acquisition of syntax that builds on the contribution of the different source theories in a detailed and explicit manner. Each chapter starts by laying the relevant theoretical background, before examining empiricaldata on child language acquisition. The result is a bold new theory of the acquisition of syntax, unusual in its combination of Chomskian linguistics and learning theory. Language and the Learning Curve is an important new work that challenges many of our usual assumptions about syntacticdevelopment.

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Language development remains one of the most hotly debated topics in the cognitive sciences. In recent years we have seen contributions to the debate from researchers in psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and philosophy, though there have been surprisingly few interdisciplinaryattempts at unifying the various theories. I...

Anat Ninio received a BA in Statistics and English Linguistics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1965 and a second BA in Psychology in 1969, followed by an MA in 1970 and a PhD in 1974, the latter two under the supervision of Professor Daniel Kahneman, specializing in Cognitive Psychology. She spent a year of post-doctoral s...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.59 inPublished:November 2, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019929982X

ISBN - 13:9780199299829

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Table of Contents

1. Valency1.1. Linguistic approaches to valency and syntactic structure1.2. Implication for acquisition: syntax is simple1.3. Developmental evidence: the earliest word combinations are syntactic mergers1.4. Conclusions: children learn to merge two words according to their valency2. The learning curve2.1. The learning curve in cognitive psychology2.2. Implication for acquisition: syntax should transfer right away2.3. Developmental evidence: learning curves and generalizations in early syntax2.4. Conclusions: lexical-specific syntactic frames facilitate others3. Lexicalism3.1. The linguistic basis to lexicalism3.2. Implication for acquisition: no abstract schema formation3.3. Developmental evidence: no change in the form of syntactic schemas3.4. Conclusions: children learn a lexicalist syntax4. Similarity4.1. Similarity for transfer and generalization4.2. Implication for acquisition: no role for semantic linking in learning syntax4.3. Developmental evidence: no semantic effects in generalization and transfer4.4. Conclusions: children utilize similarity of form to organize the process of acquisition5. The growth of syntax5.1. The language web5.2. Implication for acquisition: learning means linking to the network5.3. Developmental evidence: children recreate the global features of the maternal network5.4. Conclusions: children join the language network

Editorial Reviews

"Interesting and provocative theoretical proposal, supported by empirical evidence...this book presents a very interesting and well-researched proposal for the acquisition of syntax...It is worth reading for anyone interested in formal modelling of language learning."--International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders "Ninio draws together a substantial body of knowledge in an admirable attempt to combine current theories in language acquisition, While intergrating linguistic as well as psychological theories into her own framework ofsyntactic development, she rigorously disposes of cherished notions in both traditions. Her ideas are thought-provoking and critical. Thus, her theory invites students in the field of language acquisition to critically assess its central tenets with relation to usage-based accounts of language as well as generative linguistics... this is a fascinating volume that provides an intricate and stimulating read, recommended to everyone interested in integrative accounts of child language development."--Child Language Bulletin "Language and the Learning Curve is a breakthrough achievement, elegantly and logically presented, solidly based on evidence from child language research and expertise in current theoretical linguistics."--Katherine Nelson, Department of Psychology, Graduate Center, City University of New York "This book is very interesting for researchers of language acquisition and for specialists who work on how to make computers understand language and how to link language with broader knowledge networks."--Liu Haitao, Applied and Computational Linguistics, Communication University of China, Beijing "Anat Ninio has forgeda unique role for herself in the field of language acquisition as a creative and innovative researcher... Ninio continuously thinks across theoretical and disciplinary divides in highly constructive ways. Her book presents challenges to received wisdoms in all parts of the field and really makes one think!"--Elena Lieven, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, and the University of Manchester, UK "I used the book in one of my MSc courses where it was very popular. The students... were excited about the approach and welcomed it as interesting and refreshingly healthy in wedding well the theory and data and yielding specific predictions. This is one of the reasons I intend to keep using the book in the future!"--Barbora Skarabela, Lecturer, Linguistics and English Language, University of Edinburgh