From universal to language-specific in early grammatical development [Reprint]
From universal to language-specific in early grammatical development [Reprint]. In K. Trott, S. Dobbinson, & P. Griffiths (Eds.
), The child language reader
(pp. 131-146). London: Routledge.
Attempts to explain children's grammatical development often assume a close initial match between units of meaning and units of form; for example, agents are said to map to sentence-subjects and actions to verbs. The meanings themselves, according to this view, are not influenced by language, but reflect children's universal non-linguistic way of understanding the world. This paper argues that, contrary to this position, meaning as it is expressed in children's early sentences is, from the beginning, organized on the basis of experience with the grammar and lexicon of a particular language. As a case in point, children learning English and Korean are shown to express meanings having to do with directed motion according to language-specific principles of semantic and grammatical structuring from the earliest stages of word combination.