"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more
To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.
This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 14:06:01 +0100 From: Annette Hohenberger <email@example.com> Subject: Resilience of Language
AUTHOR: Goldin-Meadow, Susan TITLE: The Resilience of Language SUBTITLE: What Gesture Creation in Deaf Children Can Tell Us About How All Children Learn Language PUBLISHER: Psychology Press (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2003
Annette Hohenberger, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Department of Psychology, Munich
In this monograph, Susan Goldin-Meadow explores the "resilient" properties of language, i.e., those properties which are robust and flexible enough to occur universally (across the languages of the world) in individuals under vastly varying acquisitional scenarios. The "language-making skills" (rather than language-learning skills) of young children can access grammatical forms and constructions implementing these properties easily in normal as well as extremely unfavorable learning situations.
In order to identify the resilient properties of language, Susan Goldin-Meadow studies deaf children of hearing parents who have neither a sign nor a spoken language model from which they could derive the properties of human language. Despite this lack of a language model, these subjects come up with a language system that has all the hallmarks of natural language.
What exactly are resilient properties? Susan Goldin-Meadow calls those properties of language resilient whose development is resistant to changes in the environmental conditions under which languages are learned: "To the extent that a property of language is UNAFFECTED (in italics in the original, my remark, A.H.) by a given manipulation, it can be said to be developmentally RESILIENT - its developmental course is impervious to the change in input conditions." (p 19) The opposite of resilient properties are "fragile" properties "whose development is sensitive to changes in input conditions." (p 20)
The question of what language children would develop if they were deprived of language has its historical antecedents in the search for the proto-language of mankind. It is historically bequeathed that several emperors, namely the Pharaoh Psammetic, the Staufer King Frederic II and the Scottish King Jacob IV arranged for rigorous experiments on newborns which they had deprived of any language and human companion in order to find out what language they would develop. This language should then be considered the human proto-language. These experiments all failed: the poor infants either died (as in Frederic II's case) or uttered only some sparse proto-words (which, however, led Psammetic to conclude that Phrygian must be the proto-language and Jacob that it was Hebrew). Thus, the most basic condition which must be met for any language-learning to be possible at all is human companion and the willingness to communicate, i.e, "human and humane contact." (p 48) This is the case for the subjects Susan Goldin-Meadow studies. They live under normal social and emotional conditions except that they do not have a language model because (1) their hearing parents cannot sign and (2) they want them to acquire an oral language, spoken English. As a result neither the parents get what they want - a speaking child - nor do the children get what they need - a(ny) language model, signed or spoken. The study therefore qualifies as a "deprivation study" conducted under the only ethically acceptable condition - that it be not deliberately created by the experimenters. Rather, the author came across these children in their specific situation which she identified as offering "a unique and powerful way to isolate properties of language that are resilient..." (p 51)
The book is organized into three main sections:
In the first section (chapters 1-5) the author lays out "The problem of language-learning". In this section, she covers the common developmental sequence children go through despite cross-linguistic differences, despite differing circumstances of acquisition, and despite different modalities (aural-oral for spoken languages; visual-gestural for sign languages).
In the second section (chapters 6-15) she explores in depth the situation of "Language development without a language model". This section is the core section which covers a wealth of empirical data and very thoroughly carried-out studies on the structure and use of gestures which the deaf children in her study create in the absence of any model of language. Furthermore, she compares the gestures of the hearing parents with those of their deaf children and also the gestures of deaf children from another culture/language, namely children from Taiwan whose surrounding spoken language is Chinese. Those comparisons should factor out any influence of the parents' gestures and of the culture and show which properties are really resilient and which can be modified by gestural input and cultural impact.
In the four chapters (16-19) of the final section "The conditions that foster language and language-learning" she generalizes her findings with respect to the question of how language-learning proceeds in children in general and what role the resilient properties of language and the language-making abilities of children play. She also studies gesture-creation experimentally in hearing adults. From all these studies she derives a new perspective on the longstanding and hotly-debated question whether language is innate by shifting the emphasis from genetics to developmental resilience.
This book, according to the author, aims at students of linguistics at the upper level undergraduate courses and introductory graduate courses. It can be used for teaching, though not as a stand-alone textbook but in combination with more traditional textbooks on language acquisition. The book can be read (and taught) in a modular way. The sections and individual chapters can be read independently of each other. Especially the first section is a concise introduction into the fundamental problems of language acquisition research and discusses the various theoretical approaches on the background of a wealth of empirical findings. Readers already acquainted with the main paradigms, problems, and puzzles of language acquisition may rehearse their knowledge by reading this section before concentrating on the central second section. In each of the chapters in the second section, particular aspects of the deaf children's gesture system are discussed. In class, they can be supplemented by the more detailed original studies they are taken from and which have already been published as independent papers. In the last section, conclusions are drawn from the empirical studies, conventional language acquisition is revisited in the light of the present findings, speculations on the evolution of gestural and oral languages are sketched, and the relation of gesture and speech in language is discussed.
The book is supplemented by 17 movies which show in real-time the gestured words and sentences of the deaf children which are referred to as examples in the book. The movies are available at <http://www.psypress.com/goldinmeadow>.
There are a few typos which are hardly worth mentioning ('manipulatable' on p 63 and 'old' instead of 'odd' on p 70). What should be corrected in the next edition is a mislabelling in the legends of two figures. In Figure 17 (p 139) the 'distal events' should be in white and the 'object & action knowledge' in black. In Figure 23 (p 174) the 'American children' should correspond to the black bars and the 'Chinese children' to the striped bars. Everything is fine in the diagrams themselves, only the legends are incorrect.
At the heart of this monograph is the description of the gesture system of 10 US deaf children of hearing parents from 1;4 (earliest session) to 4;6 (latest session) years of age. All utterances were scored according to a coding-system which was developed for the deaf children's utterances and which was also used for the other groups with which the original subject group was compared later. The coding-system consists of three categories, namely "deictic (pointing) gestures" which function like nouns (N) and pronouns and denote persons/objects/locations, "iconic gestures" which denote actions and events (either transitive or intransitive), and "marker/modulator gestures" (e.g., headnods, headshakes) which convey mode (affirmation/negation/doubt/want) (chapter 6). The meaning of these gestures was determined on the basis of their form. Inter-rater reliability was sufficiently high (87-100%). Gestures were elicited from the young subjects by an experimenter in interactive play sessions.
The gestures the children created and used are clearly organized as parts of a language system. This language system displays all signs of a natural language. It includes a lexicon in which words - nouns and verbs - are stored as stable lexical entries relating form and meaning in a systematic way, a morphological component which creates paradigmatic contrasts of e.g., handshapes and movements, predicate frames specifying "who does what to whom", and, finally, a syntactic component with recursive capacities, serving all the functions natural language is used for: making requests and comments in the here-and-now, referring to non-present objects and events, making generic statements, telling stories, talking to one-self and, last, serving meta-linguistic purposes.
Some forms and meanings seem to be more easily accessible in language acquisition than others. The most compelling of those are "ergative" constructions, a recurring theme throughout the book (see also Goldin-Meadow 2003a). The deaf children focus primarily on patients and on the result of actions as they are evidenced by the equally high production probabilities of intransitive actors and transitive patients in the deaf children's data as opposed to the low production probability of subjects of transitive verbs. Underlying this pattern is "a tendency to see objects as affected by action rather than as effectors of action." (p 106) As in ergative languages, where intransitive actors and transitive patients are marked alike morphologically, the deaf children group them together by means of the same probability of occurrence. Furthermore, they are also treated on a par with respect to word order: both transitive patients and intransitive actors precede the acts, as in "snack EAT" and "Susan MOVE-OVER". Transitive actors, if they appear at all, occur post-verbally. From these results one can deduce that the spontaneously emerging word order for the majority of the deaf children is OV(S) and that they have acquired an ergative language. Not only the deaf American children show this pattern, but also deaf Chinese Children who grow up under comparable conditions of language deprivation (chapter 15). Hearing adult subjects, too, come up with ergative (and figure-ground) word order if asked to describe scenes by means of gestures only (chapter 17). The pervasive ergative pattern may result from more general cognitive factors in parsing events into units of speech or sign (see below). Languages can and do override this initial option which is part of a "gold standard" (p 173) in acquisition and processing. Multiple factors, cognitive, linguistic, communicative, interact in explaining word order and event packaging in a given language. Lacking any language model, the deaf children show this gold standard in its pure form. Carrying the gold metaphor a little further, they can be said to have spun straw into gold - the proven structure- and worthless gestural input of their parents (chapter 14) into a natural language.
Susan Goldin-Meadow summarizes the resilient properties of language she found in her deaf child subjects in chapter 16, Table 6 (p 186). Resilient properties of words are their stability in form, their segmentation and combination into morphological paradigms consisting of a limited set of categories (handshapes and movements), the arbitrariness of the form-meaning pairing (despite a certain degree of iconicity) and their differential functioning as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The resilient properties of sentences are underlying predicate frames with consistent production probabilities of particular theta-roles, word order (OV), inflections, recursion, and redundancy reduction. In Table 6, words and sentences are taken as domains in which resilient properties of language manifest themselves. Making this point even stronger, one might consider morphemes, words, and phrases themselves as resilient units of language which emerge in a predictable way through processing and acquisition. The resilient functions of language comprise here-and-now talk, displaced talk, generics, narrative, self-talk, and meta-language. In the same vein, she identifies language-making skills that do not require a language model, as summarized in Table 7 (p 190). Processes which are available despite a missing language model are segmenting (words into morphemes, sentences into words), constructing (morphological) paradigms and constructing syntactic sequences. Thus, segmentation and combination (on the vertical and the horizontal axis) are so basic that they can occur de novo in the course of language acquisition. Structures which can be attained without a language model comprise multiple argument predicate frames, the grammatical categories of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and ergative constructions. The overall acquisition path of the deaf children is also comparable to those of children with a language model, namely from the whole to the parts (chapter 9). They start out with unanalyzed word forms which represent primarily the gesture-world relation. Once they have stored a critical mass of entries in their mental lexicon, they start breaking down these forms, extract morphemes and recombine them, thereby creating paradigms of systematic contrasts which are now governed by gesture-gesture relations, i.e., by language-systematic aspects. As for syntax, they start out with single gestures, then combine them into two-gesture sentences (1;6-2;5) and, finally, at the age of (3;1-3;11), they produce complex sentences. In this process of "building a system" (chapter 12) they re-analyze or "redescribe" their representations, to speak with Karmiloff-Smith (1992). Evidence for that also comes from their shifting from semantic notions such as agents and actors to notions of grammatical functions such as nouns and verbs. One deaf child's development was monitored in particular in this respect. He started out with a semantically-based correlation of objects with nouns and actions with verbs. Before the age of 3;3 nouns and verbs were marked strictly formally in that nouns were always deictic gestures and verbs iconic gestures. After 3;3, this equivalence relation was resolved stepwise. As a first interim step, he then expressed nouns with iconic gestures, too, but never used the same gesture for both nouns and verbs. This amounts to a lexical strategy. Finally, nouns and verbs became truly grammaticized notions. He then used the same iconic gestures for nouns and verbs but distinguished them by morphological markings. Susan Goldin-Meadow argues that there is a developmental nexus of grammaticalization of semantic notions, the emergence of morphology (derivational and inflectional) and, maybe, also the symbolic use of gestures for non-present objects (chapter 12). Apart from these compelling parallels in the developmental trajectories of children with and without language models, there are also differences. Not surprisingly, the development of the latter is somewhat delayed and their sentences remain shorter, in general.
"The resilience of language" is a book which takes us back to the very roots of language in terms of acquisition and evolution. It attempts at answering a question which is as old as our reasoning about our own nature: What is at the very heart of our human language faculty?
Susan Goldin-Meadow's methodological approach is sound and sharp and therefore allows her to establish reliable and valid evidence with respect to her research question. She adheres to the following rationale: "We first establish an equivalence between the deaf children's systems and the linguistic systems developed by children learning conventional languages. We then make inferences about how language is learned in general from the fact that the deaf children display certain properties of language in their systems but fail to display others." (p 123) She proceeds very carefully in trying to exclude possible intervening hypotheses. By showing that the gestures of the deaf children's speaking parents have no language-systematic properties at all, she excludes the reasonable assumption that the parents' gesturing may have fostered their children's gesturing (chapter 14). By showing that another group of deaf children who grow up in Taiwan (whose parents speak Chinese) show the same syntactic patterns than do their US counterparts, she proves that neither culture nor the surrounding language has any influence on the structural patterns which emerge in deaf children without a language model (chapter 15). By showing that English speaking and Chinese speaking peers do show salient differences in overt realization of arguments of underlying predicate frames, she identifies those aspects of language which can only develop given a particular language model (chapter 15). These properties are the "fragile" properties of language. By showing that adult speakers, if asked to rely on gestures only in describing dynamical scenes, resort to the same word orders and event packaging strategies as the deaf children did, she identifies a common cognitive substrate for these recurring phenomena (chapter 17).
The properties summarized in table 6 and 7 are called "resilient properties of language" and resilient language-making skills, respectively. The question is: Are they really resilient properties of language or are they resilient properties of cognition? If the former is true, then these properties are specific to language and do not show up in a different cognitive domain. If the latter is true, then these properties hold for cognitive development in general. Thus, the question is if what Susan Goldin-Meadow has identified phenomenologically is resilient with respect to language or resilient with respect to cognition in the domain of language or, even wider, communication. Are there general (developmental) cognitive schemas and strategies which, if applied to the task of communication, produce the phenomena at hand?
In order to examine this possibility, let us exemplarily come back to the prominent ergative pattern. I would like to adduce evidence from findings in cognitive and developmental psychology which are strongly reminiscent of this pattern. In cognitive psychology, it is well-known that the (anticipated) results of actions play a key role in the perception, planning, and control of actions. This focusing on the results or goals of actions has been dubbed the "action-effect" principle (Prinz 1997). In developmental psychology, too, it has been shown that infants pay special attention to salient action effects on the objects involved in human action (Jovanovic et al. submitted). In both domains, human action and language, there seems to be a common bias for the encoding of results/end states/patient properties of events.
Likewise, for the other resilient properties and processes, one wonders if they are cognitive in general or language-specific. Susan Goldin-Meadow discusses this central question (chapter 16, p 191f) when she asks why the deaf children co-opt for specific processes, namely segmentation and combination of units into paradigms and syntactic sequences, thereby following underlying predicate frames, and introducing recursion. In particular, she asks why the deaf children did not grammaticize e.g. Euclidean-geometric concepts such as distance, size, contour, angles, etc. which would be natural given the spatial nature of their gesture system. Instead, they grammaticize the very same notions as do all natural languages. She concludes: "That the children choose to co-opt the particular combinatorial processes listed in Table 7 over others is therefore significant. Even if we are completely comfortable saying that these processes reflect general cognitive operations (as opposed to specifically linguistic operations), we still need to explain why THIS SET (in italics in the original, my remark, A.H.) has been co-opted." (p 192) In her answer she invokes the task requirements of language itself: "It may be that the communicative situation itself demands not only segmentation, but also combinatorial processes of this sort - ..." (ibid.) The task of transmitting information requires that our "knowledge must go through a discrete filter and, as a result, its representation ends up looking discrete." (p 191) However, this answer is only partially satisfying as there is no (and can be no) causal explanation of how these task requirements shall result in grammatical structures. They can only define the problem and set the goal, here: how to get one's thoughts into the head of someone else and vice versa. There must be processes and structures ready for implementing this task. It is these processes and structures the child co-opts. Thus, we are back where we started.
If what the children developed on their own is a result of their general cognitive abilities, then what is specific to language as a module (if one does not want to deny its status as a cognitive module altogether)? In order to answer this question, one might look at what properties the deaf children did not develop but which are considered crucial for language, though. What comes to mind first, is phonology. Susan Goldin-Meadow says nothing about the analysis of gestures into the three (or four) phonological parameters of conventional sign languages, namely handshape, movement, place of articulation (and hand-orientation). Her deaf children use the first two of them, handshape and movement, for decomposing words into their constituent morphological components. Implicitly, phonological features must be accessible to them, but maybe only via morphology. She says nothing about systematic phonological contrasts of the other two features. Either there is too little evidence for them in the data or the gestures really have not been analyzed phonologically. Given that phonology is a defining characteristics of all natural languages, it is hardly conceivable that they haven't. A phonological analysis might even require more time to develop in acquisition (and evolution) than a morphological analysis, given the whole-part strategy mentioned above. The hearing adults in the "gesture creation paradigm" also neither developed a morphology nor a phonology.
In the domain of syntax, too, the deaf children did not come up with a full-blown syntactic system. Susan Goldin-Meadow grants them the very basic property of recursion. Thus, they combine phrases to complex sentences, although they cannot show their full recursive capability of multiple embedding, given the overall shortness of their sentences. The lack of complementizers and hypotactic subordination is probably also due to this basic limitation. There is, however, one property missing which cannot be explained away along these lines. Of the two basic operations of syntax they have Merger but not Move. Move relates to the basic property of displacement and formation of chains which is common to all natural languages (at least from a generative perspective). The three basic layers of a phrase marker, the thematic layer (VP), the propositional layer (IP), and the modal layer (CP) are related to each other by movement of constituents and creation of chains. There is no evidence in the data of the deaf children that they, for example, topicalize a constituent by fronting it. It is hard to conceive how they should figure out such a possibility, lacking any language model. However, dislocation is an 'essential' property of language. Maybe it is even a resilient one, but one which might need more time to develop, and a wider range of application.
It might be helpful to not only contrast 'resilient' with 'fragile' properties but also with 'essential' and 'emergent' properties of language. 'Essential' properties of language would be those which are specific to and constitutive of language, e.g., features like TNS or processes like Move which have no counterpart in any other cognitive system. Essential properties of language may or may not be resilient. I would suggest to distinguish those resilient properties which are domain-unspecific from those which are domain-specific. If it turned out that there exist only domain-unspecific resilient properties of language, this would be tantamount to the connectionist claim that there are no language-specific properties at all. If there were language-specific resilient properties, however, this would be strong evidence for those aspects of UG which are data-insensitive. It is hard to clear the notion of 'resilience' from being 'essential', 'most basic', or 'most important' in language. It may turn out that essential properties of language are never resilient and manifest themselves only in connection with input whereas more general cognitive strategies are responsible for the resilient properties. Note that this scenario would not be incompatible with a theory of UG which holds that UG only defines the boundary conditions, i.e., the possible format of human language and not the set of linguistic primitives per se, namely "if units of representation are allowed to emerge from the accommodation of actual data according to general principles of the representational system." (Bierwisch 2001: 299)
Structures may also arise in a process of 'emergence' rather than learning from a model. 'Emergent' properties are novel systemic properties which arise spontaneously ('de novo') on a macroscopic level in the course of (language) development, due to local interactions of elements on a microscopic level. Morphemes, words and phrases as recurrent and stable units of language, N and V as grammatical categories, and word order, are good candidates for emergent structures. Resilient structures might therefore be emergent ones.
Truly fragile properties are branching direction (left or right, see chapter 11) as an example of a classical parameter in the sense of the Principles-and-Parameters Theory. They can be easily fixed by limited experience but a minimal amount of experience must be available. A single person cannot be the creator of language and provider of evidence for him-/herself at the same time, as correctly pointed out by Susan Goldin-Meadow. This would amount to an absurd bootstrapping task. In order for language to fully bloom other conditions must be met, as in the felicitous case of the emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) which she discusses in chapter 19. First, there must be a sufficiently large number of members of the language community who are willing to communicate, second, there must be the opportunity to see the system as a whole which is true for new members who enter this community, and, as a third requirement, they must be of a sufficiently young age. Of all these preconditions, only the last is true for the deaf children of the present study. They did the best they could and got as far as possible in their given situation.
Susan Goldin-Meadow also discusses other accounts of language creation in similar situations in order to clarify her own account of developmental resilience (chapter 5). Similar evidence for the language-making skills of children come from Bickerton's (1999) creole studies. He invokes a "bioprogram" operative in young children which enables them to enrich the pidgin they receive as input and to develop it into a structurally complex creole language. One might be tempted to simply subsume the resilient properties of language under the innate language bioprogram. There are two main differences between the two accounts, though. First, Susan Goldin-Meadow's methodology and data are even more radical and therefore also more evidential for the identification of the resilient properties of language than Bickerton's data. Second, whereas Bickerton readily resorts to nativism as an explanation, Susan Goldin-Meadow is much more cautious in this respect. She carefully avoids any direct claims of innateness or biological anchoring of the human language faculty. This abstinence makes her approach especially valuable as a concept that can be shared by different learning approaches - innatist, connectionist, environmentalist - which she outlines in chapter 2. Rather than defining "innate" as genetic she suggests "that the definition is more usefully anchored in the notion of developmental resilience." (chapter 18, p 215) With developmental resilience, she means developmentally "buffered against a large number of both environmental and organic variations." (p 218) Language acquisition can succeed under a vast range of differing conditions, even under conditions of no input at all. Some aspects of language are more affected by these environmental variations than others. The latter are "central to humans - so central that their development is virtually guaranteed, not necessarily by a particular gene but by a variety of combinations of genetic and environmental factors. In this sense, language is innate." (p 220) Her account of innateness in terms of developmental resilience is suited to relax the ongoing innateness controversy (Elman et al. 1996) in that it avoids the paradigmatic dispute between the various theoretical camps but focuses more on the content of what is claimed to be innate. She has provided a detailed catalogue of resilient properties of language based on a thoroughly cared-out empirical study of a group of language learners under the most hostile conditions one can think of. Even without any model of language, the developmental path is not random but runs along the same general trajectories as in any other group of language learners. Language development is "equifinal" (p 218) although it obviously is not equi-initial or equi-liminal (Hohenberger 2002), i.e., it can start out from very different initial states and take different possible pathways from the initial to the steady state. Susan Goldin-Meadow has shown how substantial variation can be in the initial conditions and still all these trajectories lead to a single stable solution within an overall dynamical language system - due to the resilient properties of language. Some of these properties may take more or less time to become manifest. Some pop up de novo in a single generation, others may take considerably more time to develop and transcend the ontogenetic time-span. In chapter 17 she speculates on the role of time in the manifestation of resilient properties. Time, however, is also confounded with linguistic evidence. The next generation would be provided with the evidence built up by the previous generation. Linguistic features emerge through the iterated process of mapping external data on internal representations (grammar). The longer this process operates, the subtler and more "fragile" these features will be. All features, resilient and fragile ones, are licensed by the same conditions of the human language module but have differing developmental onsets. The author has explored the very beginning of this process, the first few iterations of a dynamical process in an ontogenetic time-span. Language develops on various time-scales at the same time - evolutionary, phylogenetic, ontogenetic, microgenetic. Resilience manifests itself on all these scales but not necessarily for the same properties at the same speed.
Susan Goldin-Meadow shows that gesture can develop into language if it assumes the full burden of communication (chapter 17), as it does in the case of her young deaf subjects and also in the acquisition of a conventional sign language (chapter 4). Gesture serves a quite different function in oral languages, namely the imagistic function. In every language both functions - the systemic and the imagistic function - have to be covered. Usually, this happens in a division of labor between the modalities: in sign languages the oral modality is used for gesturing, in spoken language it is the gestural modality. Susan Goldin-Meadow has also explored into this division of labor and has found that in spoken language acquisition the visual-gestural channel can provide valuable insights into the developmental state of a child acquiring a spoken language. Sometimes the child expresses knowledge in the gestural channel which it cannot yet expressed in the oral channel, as in the case of gesture-speech "mismatch". Gesturing is therefore helpful in the overall cognitive development. In her book "Hearing gesture: How our hands help us think" (2003b) Susan Goldin-Meadow gives a comprehensive account of the diverse roles that gesture assumes in spoken language. Both monographs supplement each other in an obvious way and witness the deep involvement of the author in the interdisciplinary field of gesture research.
It is the merit of Susan Goldin-Meadow's book(s) to focus our thinking on the deep and still unresolved puzzles of language acquisition by showing us what the very foundations of language are. Her preoccupation with these fundamental questions for the last 25 years presents us with a highly unique, original, and comprehensive treatise in the field of language acquisition and cognitive development.
The only drop of bitterness I had to swallow in reading this insightful and thought-provoking book concerns the fate of the young subjects. While Susan Goldin-Meadow as the objective scientist is silent on any ethical or moral implications, the burning issue to me is: Were these fine young children eventually redeemed from their deprivation and allowed to immerse into a full language model which, no doubt, ideally would be a sign language? The deaf children did the best they could - now it is up to their environment to provide them with what is a human right: to have a full natural language.
Bickerton, D. (1999): Creole languages, the language bioprogram hypothesis, and language acquisition. In W.C. Ritchie and T.K. Bhatia (eds.), Handbook of child language and acquisition (pp. 195-220). New York: Academic.
Bierwisch, M. (2001): Repertoires of primitive elements. Prerequisite or result of acquisition? In: J. Weissenborn & B. Hoehle (Eds.), Approaches to bootstrapping. Phonological, lexical, syntactic and neurophysiological aspects of early language acquisition. Vol. 2, 281-307. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Elman, J., Bates, E., Johnson, M, Karmiloff-Smith, A., Parisi, D. and Plunkett, K. (1996): Rethinking innateness. A connectionist perspective on development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Goldin-Meadow, S. (2003a): Thought before language: Do we think ergative? In D. Gentner & S. Goldin-Meadow (eds.), Language in mind: Advances in the study of language and thought. Cambridge: MIT Press. Goldin-Meadow, S. (2003b): Hearing gesture: How our hands help us think. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hohenberger, A. (2002): Functional categories in language acquisition: Self-organization of a dynamical system. Linguistische Arbeiten 456. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Jovanovic, B., Királyi, I., Elsner, B, Gergely, G., Prinz, W. & Aschersleben, G. (submitted): The role of effects for infants' perception of action goals.
Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992): Beyond modularity. A developmental perspective on cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Prinz, W. (1997): Perception and action planning. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology 9, 129-154.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
My research interests are (i) first language acquisition, where I put
forward a dynamical account of the acquisition of syntax (ii) language
processing, where I compared slips of tongue and hand (iii) sign
language, especially processing and acquisition, and (iv) the development
of cognition and action as a broader framework relating (i-iii) to human