If I wasn’t both too skint and too immersed in writing, I’d be interested in getting hold of these books on language acquisition newly announced on the Linguist List.
- Semantics in Acquisition, which seeks to apply formal semantics to language acquisition. I still have fond memories of (struggling to keep on top of) formal semantics and it would be intriguing to see how successfully it can handle child language acquisition.
- Optimality Theory, Phonological Acquisition and Disorders, by Dinnsen and Gierut. Particularly their claim that there is indeed clinical relevance in what Optimality Theoretic accounts can offer makes the book sound appealing. And makes me wish I was going to ICPLA Istanbul to hear Martin Ball’s plenary; but I’m not.
Also of interest on the Linguist List recently was this review of a book on language acquisition from the perspective of modularity. The review is generally positive, but takes issue with what seems to be a major theme of the book:
The most controversial claim in this book concerns ”ethical modularity”, namely that the modular theory of mind may preserve the dignity of a child. First of all, it should be beyond doubt that the dignity of a child should always be preserved: a child having failed in a particular language (or cognitive) task should incur no disadvantages such as demotion to a lower class or to a class for handicapped pupils, misclassification as imbecile, or personal offence. However, it may not be that easy to achieve this goal. Can cognitive science help here? Roeper is convinced that by maintaining a modular theory of mind we can avoid harm to the children that are entrusted to our care. The modular theory may lend itself less easily to misuse than alternative theories. The argument claims that a modular theory naturally preserves the dignity of the child because the failure of a child in one task (if a failure at all) will remain a local one in just one module whereas all other modules may still be intact. The acknowledgement of the child’s general cognitive integrity preserves her dignity. In contrast, a theory that generalizes a local deficit to a global one is more likely to lead to a violation of the child’s dignity with all its negative consequences.