Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument Structure (Learning, Development and Conceptual Change)
By: Steven Pinker (author)Paperback
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When children learn a language, they soon are able to make surprisingly subtle distinctions: "donate them a book" sounds odd, for example, even though "give them a book" is perfectly natural. How can this happen, given that children do not confine themselves to the sentence types they hear, and are usually not corrected when they speak ungrammatically? Steven Pinker resolves this paradox in a detailed theory of how children acquire argument structure. In tackling a learning paradox that has challenged scholars for more than a decade, Pinker synthesizes a vast literature in linguistics and psycholinguistics and outlines explicit theories of the mental representation, learning, and development of verb meaning and verb syntax. The new theory that he describes has some surprising implications for the relation between language and thought.Pinker's solution provides insight into such key questions as, When do children generalize and when do they stick with what they hear? What is the rationale behind linguistic constraints? How is the syntax of predicates and arguments related to their semantics? What is a possible word meaning?
Do languages force their speakers to construe the world in certain ways? Why does children's language seem different from that of adults? Learnability and Cognition is included in the series Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change, edited by Lila Gleitman, Susan Carey, Elissa Newport, and Elizabeth Spelke. A Bradford Book
Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.
Part 1 A learnability paradox: argument structure and the lexicon; the logical problem of language acquisition; Baker's paradox; attempted solutions to Baker's paradox. Part 2 Constraints on lexical rules: morphological and phonological constraints; semantic constraints; how semantic and morphological constraints might resolve Baker's paradox; evidence for criteria-governed productivity; problems for the criteria-governed productivity theory. Part 3 Constraints and the nature of argument structure: overview - why lexical rules carry semantic constraints; constraints of lexical rules as manifestations of more general phenomena; a theory of argument structure; on universality. Part 4 Possible and actual forms: the problem of negative exceptions; transitive action verbs as evidence for narrow subclasses; the nature of narrow conflation classes; defining and motivating subclasses of verbs licensing the four alterations; the relation between narrow-range and broad-range rules. Part 5 Representation: the need for a theory of lexicosemantic representation; is a theory of lexical semantics feasible?; evidence for a semantic subsystem underlying verb meanings; a cross-linguistic inventory of components of verb meaning; a theory of the representation of grammatically relevant semantic structures; explicit representations of lexical rules an lexicosemantic structures; summary. Part 6 Learning: linking rules; lexical semantic structures; broad conflation classes (thematic cores) and broad range lexical rules; summary of learning mechanisms. Part 7 Development: developmental sequence for argument structure alterations; the unlearning problem; children's argument structure changing rules are always semantically conditioned; do children's errors have the same cause as adults?; acquisition of verb meaning and errors in argument structure; some predictions about the acquisition of narrow-range rules; summary of development. Part 8 Conclusions: a brief summary of the resolution of the paradox; argument structure as a pointer between syntactic structure and propositions; the autonomy of semantic representation; implications for the semantic bootstrapping hyposthesis; conservatism, listedness and the lexicon; spatial schemas and abstract thought.
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- ID: 9780262660730
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