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Syntactic Development

Syntactic Development presents a broad critical survey of the research literature on child language development. Giving balanced coverage to both theoretical and empirical issues, William O’Grady constructs an up-to-date picture of how children acquire the syntax of English.

Part 1 offers an overview of the developmental data pertaining to a range of syntactic phenomena, including word order, subject drop, embedded clauses, wh-questions, inversion, relative clauses, passives, and anaphora. Part 2 considers the various theories that have been advanced to explain the facts of development as well as the learnability problem, reporting on work in the mainstream formalist framework but also considering the results of alternative approaches.

Covering a wide range of perspectives in the modern study of syntactic development, this book is an invaluable reference for specialists in the field of language acquisition and provides an excellent introduction to the acquisition of syntax for students and researchers in psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science.

420 pages | 43 line drawings, 123 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1997

Language and Linguistics: Syntax and Semantics


“<I>Syntactic development<I> provides a comprehensive overview of the study of primary syntax acquisition, which includes the classical, groundbreaking studies, as well as many of the most important studies from the recent past. . . . The presentation of empirical and theoretical issues is up-to-date, thorough, and well-organized. Thus, the book is a good resource for specialists. In addition, O’Grady’s writing is very clear, and many chapters are cleverly structured, from a didactic point of view. In short, this book come up to my expectations of an introductory course text in the most important respects–it is interesting and instructive, for students as well as teachers."

Frank Wijnen | Journal of Child Language

“I was very excited to see William O’Grady’s new text Syntactic Development. There is no one in the field more knowledgeable and theoretically balanced than O’Grady. This is the most important book on syntactic acquisition since Pinker, and it will bring the serious reader to a highly advanced level of understanding of the research and issues in syntactic development.”

David Ingram, University of British Columbia

“This is an excellent book in all regards. The level of scholarship is extremely high—the review of empirical and theoretical work is thorough, it is current, and it covers a wide range of different perspectives in the modern study of language development. O’Grady has the rare ability of providing an open-minded and informed introduction to theories other than his own.”

Paul Bloom, University of Arizona

“What an incredible resource for students and researchers! There is simply nothing like it. The empirical thoroughness of O’Grady’s accountmakes this an indispensable addition to a library on language acquisition.”

Jill de Villiers, Smith College

Table of Contents

1: The Study of Language Acquisition
2: One-Word Utterances
3: Early Multiword Utterances
4: Word Order and Case
5: Subject Drop
6: Embedded Clauses
7: Wh Questions
8: Inversion
9: Relative Clauses and Clefts
10: Passives
11: Constraints on Coreference
12: The Learnability Problem
13: UG-Based Theories of the Acquisition Device
14: Alternatives to UG
15: Theories of Development
16: Concluding Remarks

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