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Paperback | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262541251 | 320 pp. | 6 x 9 in | | February 2001
eBook | $17.00 Short | ISBN: 9780262324779 | 320 pp. | | June 1999
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How Language Comes to Children

From Birth to Two Years
Translated by M. B. DeBevoise


That children learn to speak so skillfully at a young age has long fascinated adults. Most children virtually master their native tongue even before learning to tie their shoelaces. The ability to acquire language has historically been regarded as a "gift"—a view given scientific foundation only in the present century by Noam Chomsky's theory of "universal grammar," which posits an innate knowledge of the principles that structure all languages.

In this delightful, accessible book, psycholinguist Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies presents a broad picture of language development, from fetal development to the toddler years, and examines a wide range of puzzling questions: How do newborns recognize elements of speech? How do they distinguish them from nonspeech sounds? How do they organize and analyze them? How do they ultimately come to understand and reproduce these sounds? Finally, how does the ability to communicate through language emerge in children? Boysson-Bardies also addresses questions of particular interest to parents, such as whether one should speak to children in a special way to facilitate language learning and whether there is cause to worry when a twenty-month-old child does not yet speak. Although the author provides a clear summary of the current state of language acquisition theory, the special appeal of the book lies in her research and "dialogue" with her many young subjects.

About the Author

Benedicte de Boysson-Bardies is a Director of Research in the Experimental Psychology Laboratory at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.


"A joy—beautifully written, broad in scope, scholarly, and exciting."—Elizabeth S. Spelke, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology