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October 2021

The item-based nature of children's early syntactic development

Journal/Book: Trends Cogn Sci. 2000; 4: 84 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8RR, England. Elsevier Science London. 156-163.

Abstract: Recent research using both naturalistic and experimental methods has found that the vast majority of young children's early language is organized around concrete, item-based linguistic schemas. From this beginning, children then construct more abstract and adult-like linguistic constructions, but only gradually and in piecemeal fashion. These new data present significant problems for nativist accounts of children's language development that use adult-like linguistic categories, structures and formal grammars as analytical tools. Instead, the best account of these data is provided by a usage-based model in which children imitatively learn concrete linguistic expressions from the language they hear around them, and then - using their general cognitive and social-cognitive skills - categorize, schematize and creatively combine these individually learned expressions and structures.

Note: Review Tomasello M, Max Planck Inst Evolutionary Anthropol, Inselstr 22, D-04103 Leipzig, GERMANY


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