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Paperback | $38.00 Short | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262572200 | 490 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 35 illus.| January 2004

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Language Acquisition

The Growth of Grammar


This text provides a comprehensive introduction to current thinking on language acquisition. Following an introductory chapter that discusses the foundations of linguistic inquiry, the book covers the acquisition of specific aspects of language from birth to about age 6. Topics include the language abilities of newborns, the acquisition of phonological properties of language, the lexicon, syntax, pronoun and sentence interpretation, control structures, specific language impairments, and the relationship between language and other cognitive functions.

At the conclusion of each chapter are a summary of the material covered, a list of keywords, study questions, and exercises. The book, which adopts the perspective of Chomskyan Universal Generative Grammar throughout, assumes a familiarity with basic concepts of linguistic theory.

About the Author

Maria Teresa Guasti is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Milan-Bicocca.


"Minimalism has inspired many different attempts at making precise in what sense the architecture of grammar is 'economical.' Williams' theory that grammar is constituted by a restricted number of levels of representation linked by shape-preserving mappings constitutes an original and unorthodox blend of linguistic theorizing. It is a controversial idea that yields strikingly insightful analyses, tied together into a cogent and engaging argument."--Gennaro Chierchia

"This book offers a unique synthesis of ideas about the development of grammar. It is, in my opinion, a fine discussion of developmental data on a particularly difficult issue which has formerly been examined only from the point of view of adult language."--J. P. Changeux, Molecular Biology Laboratory, Institut Pasteur, France

"The study of language acquisition has made remarkable progress in recent years, with major contributions to linguistics and general cognitive science as well. Guasti provides an expert, lucid, and wide-ranging introduction and review that leads the reader from basic concepts to topics at the forefront of current inquiry in this rapidly developing and exciting field."--Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT

"One of the greatest assets of this book is that it vividly shows the interplay of hypothesis construction and fact finding in the research on acquisition. New theoretical insights directly lead to the construction of experiments that unveil novel, often surprising factual generalizations. These, in turn, force us to constantly modify our initial hypotheses and survive well beyond the point where our theories, having born their fruits, cease being productive. I think that this book will convince many readers that theoretically inspired research in language acquisition is today one of the liveliest and most exciting research paradigms within cognitive science."--Gennaro ChierchiaPlease note: Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote.

"Guasti lays out in clear and simple terms the nature of the acquisition task faced by every child and provides a comprehensive overview of recent research into core areas of language development. This is an outstanding introductory textbook for undergraduates and graduate students alike and a valuable resource for anyone interested in the fascinating problem of language acquisition."--Nina Hyams, Department of Linguistics, University of California Los Angeles

"Phonology, syntax, and semantics have long been the lifeblood of training in linguistics, but in the 21st century linguists will increasingly need to supplement these foundational areas with a sophisticated understanding of language acquisition. Guasti's text, engagingly peppered with terrific examples drawn from actual child language, does a first-rate job of introducing students and professionals to the methods and questions in current research on how children acquire syntax and semantics."--Gary F. Marcus, Department of Psychology, New York UniversityPlease note: Endorser gives permission to omit first sentence, but only if add “linguistics” before “students” in the second.

"One of the most breathtaking developments of late twentieth-century linguistics was the long-awaited convergence of linguistic theory with empirical work on language acquisition. Thanks to Guasti, these results are now accessible to linguistics students of the new century. Guasti's textbook is clear, comprehensive, and exciting, and the obvious choice for any up-to-date course in developmental linguistics."--David Pesetsky, Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics, MIT

"It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of this profound and far-reaching inquiry into lexical semantics and its consequences for the structure of expressions, drawing on a remarkable range of empirical materials that are explored in depth with penetrating insight. Ambitious, controversial, highly original and provocative, it is sure to be a landmark in the study of language."--Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT