Language development is one of the major battle grounds within the humanities and sciences. This is the first time that the three major theories in language development research have been fully described and compared within the covers of a single book. The three approaches: (1) The rationalism of Chomsky and the syntactic nativism that it entails; (2)The empiricism instinct in connectionist modelling of syntactic development; (3) The pragmatism of those who see the child as actively constructing a grammatical inventory piece-by-piece through recruiting general learning abilities and socio-cognitive knowledge.
The book is unique in striking a balance between broad philosophical assessment of these three theories and fine-grain, fairly technical, accounts of how they fare at the empirical and linguistic 'coal faces.'
In Part I, the kind of psychology to which rationalism, empiricism, and pragmatism give rise are described with reference to philosophers such as Fodor, Hume, and the American pragmatists from Piece, to Rorty, and Brandom. After an introduction to the syntactic analysis of the sentence, Part 2 continues with an account of the evolution of Chomskyan theory from its inception to present day, followed by a review of developmental research inspired by it. Part 3 takes a sceptical look at connectionist modelling of syntactic development. Part 4 describes the kind of linguistic theories that the socio-cognitive approach find sympathetic, reviewing its empirical progress (e.g., the work of Tomasello), ending with a comparison of how the generativists and functionalists tackle the evolution of syntax. Clearly and accessibly written, the book will be an important text for the developmental psychologists, linguists, and philosophers working on language.
...an important addition to the literature on first language acquisition, and could be very useful as a supplementary text in graduate seminars. Journal of Child Language, Vol 32, No 1 ...this book is a remarkable piece of work...[and] it will appeal to scholars of the language sciences and to graduate students who are coming to grips with their own thoughts on where language comes from. Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol 19, No 5 A fresh and integrative approach to language development. Russell is to be applauded for injecting some hard new thinking into this difficult topic. Steve Pinker
Part 1: Three psychologies: Rationalist, empiricist, and pragmatist
1.4: Taking stock
Part 2: Syntactic nativism: Language development within rationalism
2.1: The 'psychological reality' of the syntactic level of representation: From phrase structures to X-bar grammar
2.2: The road to minimalism - transformational grammar
2.3: The Minimalist Programme
2.4: Assessement for the time being
2.5: The question of evidence: Experiments with young children
2.6: Evidence for syntactic modularity from atypical development: children with specific learning impairment
2.7: Taking stock
Part 3: Empiricist connectionism as a theory of language development
3.1: Do connectionist representations have 'casual roles'? Two connectionist models of production
3.2: Trying to replace competence with statistical regularity: The limits and uses of cue learning
3.3: Variables: In thought, language, and in connectionist modelling
3.4: The clear utility of associative models - and more on their overreaching
3.5: Connectionism and the conceptual-intentional systems
3.6: Some new moves in modelling production
3.7: Taking stock
Part 4: The pragmatist approach to language acquisition
4.1: Two functionalist grammars
4.2: Are functionalist theories better placed to explain acquisition than generativist ones?
4.3: Explaining development: cognitive-functionalist theory and data - past and present
4.4: Is semantic knowledge sufficient or only necessary? Semantic bootstrapping versus semantic assimilation
4.5: Does an evolutionary perspective reveal the strengths of the pragmatist approach?
4.6: Taking stock