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Language and the Learning Curve

A new theory of syntactic development



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Language and the Learning Curve by Anat Ninio
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Language development remains one of the most hotly debated topics in the cognitive sciences. In recent years we have seen contributions to the debate from researchers in psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and philosophy, though there have been surprisingly few interdisciplinary attempts at unifying the various theories. In Language and the Learning Curve, a leading researcher in the field offers a radical new view of language development. Drawing on formal linguistic theory (the Minimalist Program, Dependency Grammars), cognitive psychology (skill learning) computational linguistics (Zipf curves), and Complexity Theory (networks), it takes the view that syntactic development is a simple process and that syntax can be learned just like any other cognitive or motor skill. In a thought provoking and accessible style, it develops a learning theory of the acquisition of syntax that builds on the contribution of the different source theories in a detailed and explicit manner. Each chapter starts by laying the relevant theoretical background, before examining empirical data on child language acquisition. The result is a bold new theory of the acquisition of syntax, unusual in its combination of Chomskian linguistics and learning theory. Language and the Learning Curve is an important new work that challenges many of our usual assumptions about syntactic development.

Author Biography

Anat Ninio was born in Budapest, Hungary and immigrated to Israel in 1957 as a child. Attended Hadassim Youth Village until graduating from high school. In 1965 received a B.A. in Statistics and English Linguistics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1969 received another B.A. in Psychology, followed by an M.A. in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1974 from the same university, the latter two under the supervision of Professor Daniel Kahneman, specializing in Cognitive Psychology. Spent a year of post-doctoral studies with Professor Jerome Bruner at Oxford, studying early language development. Since 1970 she has been on the faculty of the Hebrew University, first as junior faculty, then as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor. Has spent sabbatical years as a Visiting Scholar or Visiting Professor at Duke University, Durham, at the New School for Social Research in New York, at New York University, New York, at the University of Quebec at Montreal, at Harvard University, Cambridge, at Macquarie University, Sydney, and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Has served as the Chair of the Graduate Developmental Program, and as the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Hebrew University. Served as the Chair of the Sturman Human Development Center and is currently serving as the Chair of the Martin and Vivian Levin Center for the Normal and Psychopathological Development of the Child and Adolescent at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. An Associate of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and a member of the Unesco Institute for Education Exchange Network on Functional Literacy in Industrialized Countries. Served on the editorial board of Applied Psycholinguistics and of the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. A member of professional societies such as the Society for Research in Child Development and of the International Association for the Study of Child Language.
Release date NZ
January 1st, 2007
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
22 figures
Oxford University Press
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