Drawing together a vast body of empirical research in cognitive science, linguistics, and developmental psychology, Michael Tomasello demonstrates that we don't need a self-contained "language instinct" to explain how children learn language. Their linguistic ability is interwoven with other cognitive abilities. Tomasello argues that the essence of language is its symbolic dimension, which rests on the uniquely human ability to comprehend intention. Grammar emerges as the speakers of a language create linguistic constructions out of recurring sequences of symbols, children pick up these patterns in the buzz of words they hear around them. Constructing a Language offers a compellingly argued, psychologically sound new vision for the study of language acquisition.
Michael Tomasello is Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He is the author of First Verbs and the coauthor of Primate Cognition.
*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