What is universal and what differs in language development?

Forrester, G.S. and Thomas, M.S.C. 2015. What is universal and what differs in language development? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. 30 (8), pp. 922-927.

TitleWhat is universal and what differs in language development?
AuthorsForrester, G.S. and Thomas, M.S.C.
Abstract

Goldin-Meadow (2015) presents an exceptional synthesis of work from studies of children acquiring language under variable circumstances of input or processing abilities. Deaf children who acquire homesign without any well- formed model from which to learn language represent a powerful example. Goldin-Meadow argues that the resilient properties of language that nevertheless emerge include simple syntactic structures, hierarchical organisa- tion, markers modulating the meaning of sentences, and social-communicative functions. Among the fragile or input-dependent properties are the orders that the language follows, the parts into which words are decomposed, and the features that distinguish nominals from predicates. Separation of these two types of properties poses questions concerning the innate constraints on language acquisition (perhaps these equate to the resilient properties) and con‐ cerning the specificity of processes to language (e.g., whether properties such as hierarchical organisation are specific to language or originate in the structure of thought). The study of the resilient properties of human language in the face of adversity and the relation of these properties to the information that is encoded in the human genome represent a research strategy that draws inferences about species universals (properties that all humans share) from data about individual differences (IDs; factors that make humans different from one another). In the following, we suggest three reasons to be cautious about this approach.

JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Journal citation30 (8), pp. 922-927
ISSN2327-3798
Year2015
PublisherRoutledge
Accepted author manuscriptForrester & Thomas a 2015.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/23273798.2015.1055281
Publication dates
Published30 Jun 2015

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