Main Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition

Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition

This is a compelling account of how, and why, children acquire language the way they do. The book argues strenuously against the nativist proposals of Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, in particular the notion of Universal Grammar. Tomasello offers an alternative account based on an eclectic mix of "usage-based" approaches to language, including Construction Grammar and various strains of cognitive and functional linguistics.

Tomasello's ideas deserve to be taken very seriously within linguistics. His background in experimental psychology and his research experience with chimpanzees inform his ideas on language acquisition and keep them grounded in psychological and biological reality. On the other hand, his nemesis Steven Pinker is very compelling in his own right (and the best writer in the field). I have to admit I can't decide who's right, Pinker or Tomasello, but I relish their battle of ideas.
Harvard University Press
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