The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language

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Overview

The Interactional Instinct explores the evolution of language from the theoretical view that language could have emerged without a biologically instantiated Universal Grammar. In the first part of the book, the authors speculate that a hominid group with a lexicon of about 600 words could combine these items to make larger meanings. Combinations that are successfully produced, comprehended, and learned become part of the language. Any combination that is incompatible with human mental capacities is abandoned. The authors argue for the emergence of language structure through interaction constrained by human psychology and physiology.

In the second part of the book, the authors argue that language acquisition is based on an "interactional instinct" that emotionally entrains the infant on caregivers. This relationship provides children with a motivational and attentional mechanism that ensures their acquisition of language. In adult second language acquisition, the interactional instinct is no longer operating, but in some individuals with sufficient aptitude and motivation, successful second-language acquisition can be achieved.

The Interactional Instinct presents a theory of language based on linguistic, evolutionary, and biological evidence indicating that language is a culturally inherited artifact that requires no a priori hard wiring of linguistic knowledge.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195384246
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/21/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Namhee Lee is Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles
Lisa Mikesell is Doctoral Student in Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.

Anna Dina L. Joaquin is Doctoral Student in Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.

Andrea W. Mates is Doctoral Student in Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.

John H. Schumann is Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

1. Grammar as a Complex Adaptive System
2. Evidence of Language Emergence
3. The Implications of Interaction for the Nature of Language
4. Interactional Readiness: Infant-Caregiver Interaction and the Ubiquity of Language Acquisition
5. A Neurobiology for the Interactional Instinct
6. The Interactional Instinct in First and Second Language Acquisition
7. Broader Implications of the Interactional Instinct

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