Bridging the gap between theoretical linguistics and language teaching, Judith R. Strozer explores what recent theoretical advances suggest about learning a language after childhood and the implications for the design and execution of a foreign language program. Strozer outlines clearly, in nontechnical language, the major concepts of modern language theory, from Chomsky's theory of language through the most recent discoveries about the abstract foundations of language. She explains ideas about the evolution of a cognitive structure for language in the human brain, a "language faculty" or Universal Grammar that gives humans alone the creative ability to generate the infinite expressions of language. This innate universal schema for language endows humankind with a number a very broad principles applicable to all languages. Turning to current advances in the theory of phrase structure, which has replaced our 2,000-year-old rules of grammar with highly abstract universal principles of language structure, she relates the latest discoveries about the foundations of language to ideas about how children learn languages.
A child hearing a specific language can automatically set the parameters for the rules governing that particular language, much like setting a binary switch. But our ability to access this innate language mechanism automatically seems limited to childhood, until physical maturity somehow changes this brain function. Arguing that adults need to learn consciously the systems and structures of another language that children acquire unconsciously, Strozer applies these latest theories about the nature of language and how we learn it to the design of foreign language programs for adults. She concludes with recommendations for developing a new kind of teaching program that would draw on comparative language research and include new pedagogic approaches. Presenting state-of-the-art language theory in easily readable terms and illustrative examples, this book will be of interest to everyone interested in the latest understanding of the relationship between the brain and language, as well as to all professionals in linguistics and language education.