Language and Maturation
This book offers a unique overview of the current literature of language development. Beginning with an outline of the maturational changes that occur in linguistic knowledge in the period from birth to adulthood, it goes on to discuss the suggested causes for the changes and the controversies about the suggested causes.
The theory of generative grammar advanced by Noam Chomsky was responsible for much of the excitement and interest that the study of language development has enjoyed over the past decade. Inevitably, however, some linguists have questioned whether Chomsky's hypothesis of an innate mechanism for language learning, distinct from other types of learning, is a valid model of the way children actually do acquire language competence. Present efforts are directed towards finding an explanation of development and processing of language in the cognitive and social functioning of the human being, but a clear understanding of the basis for language organization eludes proponents of both schools of thought.
Language and Maturation summarizes some of the current findings on developmental language behavior in a concise, well-organized, and nonpartisan manner. It begins by describing the explanatory theories of language behavior in the adult and of language acquisition in the child that are current in the literature. The developmental course is then divided into the periods of infancy, early language development, and language development in middle and late childhood. Finally, the question of "adultlike" and "childlike" language behavior is discussed. Introducing each chapter are those questions most germane to an examination of that period of development. Some of the partial answers conclude sections of the discussion.
Suitable for upper-level undergraduate or graduate students, the book is addressed not only to linguistics students but also to those preparing themselves to be psychologists, educators, and therapists. "I hope," Paula Menyuk writes in her introduction, "that readers of this book, that is, those interested in language development and processing, will find the questions and answers presented so intriguing and challenging that they themselves will become engaged in in-depth studies of the questions of language and maturation."
"In this book, Paula Menyuk, one of the leading researchers and authors in language acquisition, has set a goal of examining and assessing our state of knowledge concerning language development over the life span. As a means of accomplishing this highly provocative and challenging task in a single brief volume, Menyuk has divided the life span into major periods of development based on apparent changes taking place in language behavior of children and adults.... For each period of language development, the author poses critical questions that she attempts to answer by means of the current theoretical and research literature. The author draws broadly on biological, cognitive, sociocultural, and behavioral data and guides the reader in consideration of possible future research."
"Menyuk presents more data about older children than are typically found in comprehensive reviews, and offers an interesting discussion on linguistic competence and individual differences in adults."
"Paula Menyuk has had a long and distinguished career as a researcher on child language development.... In this, her latest book on the subject, her intention is to make the results of the psycholinguistic research on child language available to an audience of students preparing themselves to be psychologists, educators, and therapists. There is no doubt about the need for a good summary and critique of the work and Menyuk's book generally fills the bill."
—Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases