First Verbs: A Case Study of Early Grammatical Development

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During the second year of his daughter's life, Michael Tomasello kept a detailed diary of her language, creating a rich database. He made a study of how she acquired her first verbs and analyzed the role that verbs played in her early grammatical development. The vast majority of the child's first multiword utterances contained verbs. These nascent sentences were almost all straightforward combinations of previously produced utterances, containing no productive syntactic devices. When she did begin to use productive syntactic devices and morphological markers, they were invariably tied to specific verbs, implying that the syntagmatic categories involved were such verb-specific categories as "thrower," "thing thrown," etc. It is hypothesized that more general syntagmatic categories await the formation of a paradigmatic category of verb, and that this in turn awaits complex sentences in which verbs are treated as mental objects by other predicates. The author argues persuasively that the child's earliest language is based on very general cognitive and social-cognitive processes, especially event structures and cultural learning. The richness of the database and the analytical tools used make First verbs a particularly useful and important book for developmental psychologists, linguists, language development researchers, and speech pathologists.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...many readers will undoubtedly find the volume illuminating..." Lynn Eubank, Studies in Second Language Acquisitions

"...a useful book for those interested in understanding the sometimes controversial claims that Tomasello proposes....[A]n excellent reference material even for those researchers who are unsympathetic to the cognitive linguistic approach." Jacqueline S. Johnson, Contemporary Psychology

"...a valuable contribution to the child-language literature because of the author's thorough analusis and his boldness in choosing solutions to conceptual problems and then marching on." Lorraine McCune, Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521034517
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
1.1 Cognitive Linguistics and the developmental approach 2
1.2 The importance of verbs 6
1.3 Plan of the monograph 7
2 In the beginning was the verb 9
2.1 Children's first verbs 9
2.2 Children's first sentences 20
2.3 Goals and hypotheses of the study 29
3 Methods and an introduction to T's language 30
3.1 The diary 30
3.2 Determining meaning 33
3.3 Semantic analysis of verbs 35
3.4 Syntactic analysis of sentences 38
3.5 T's earliest language 40
4 Change of state verbs and sentences 44
4.1 Presence, absence, and recurrence of objects 44
4.2 Presence, absence, and recurrence of activities 60
4.3 Exchange and possession of objects 69
4.4 Location of objects 82
4.5 Movement of objects 91
4.6 State of objects 101
5 Activity verbs and sentences 114
5.1 Activities involving objects 115
5.2 Activities not involving objects 135
6 Other grammatical structures 147
6.1 Sentences without verbs 148
6.2 Grammatical morphology 154
6.3 Complex sentences 179
6.4 Summary 185
7 The development of T's verb lexicon 187
7.1 Cognitive bases of T's early verbs 187
7.2 Contexts for early verb learning 204
7.3 Processes of early lexical development 209
7.4 Summary 219
8 The development of T's grammar 222
8.1 Constructing sentences: Symbolic integration and syntactic devices 225
8.2 Constructing a grammar: The Verb Island hypothesis 238
8.3 Processes of early grammatical development 257
8.4 Summary 262
9 Language acquisition as cultural learning 264
9.1 Summary of major findings 264
9.2 A speculation on the human capacity for language 267
9.3 Later development 271
9.4 Conclusion 273
References 275
Appendix 285
Index 371
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