Crosslinguistic Perspectives on Argument Structure
Implications for Learnability
Edited by Melissa Bowerman, Penelope Brown
Routledge – 2008 – 384 pages
This book offers a unique interdisciplinary perspective on argument structure and its role in language acquisition. Drawing on a broad range of crosslinguistic data, this volume shows that languages are much more diverse in their argument structure properties than has been realized.
The volume is the outcome of an integrated research project and comprises chapters by both specialists in first language acquisition and field linguists working on a variety of lesser-known languages. The research draws on original fieldwork and on adult data, child data, or both from seventeen languages from eleven different language families. Some chapters offer typological perspectives, examining the basic structures of a given language with language-learnability issues in mind. Other chapters investigate specific problems of language acquisition in one or more languages. Taken as a whole, the volume illustrates how detailed work on crosslinguistic variation is critical to the development of insightful theories of language acquisition.
Crosslinguistic Perspectives on Argument Structure integrates important contemporary issues in linguistics and language acquisition.
I. Verb Meaning and Verb Syntax: Crosslinguistic Puzzlse for Language Learners II. Participants Present and Absent: Argument Ellipsis and Verb Learning III. Transitivity, Intransitivity, and Their Associated Meanings: A Complex Work-Space for Learnability
Melissa Bowerman researched and published widely on topics in first language acquisition, especially lexical and morphosyntactic development. Recurrent themes in her work included the use of crosslinguistic methods to disentangle what is universal and possibly innate from what is variable and therefore learned, and the relationship between language development and conceptual development. She was particularly interested in the acquisition of argument structure alternations, variability across languages in the semantic classification of spatial relationships and everyday events, and how children master the specific semantic categories required by their language.
Penelope Brown’s research and publications concern the relationship between culture and language and cognition. The central focus of her work is the study of language use in its sociocultural context. Her child language research uses crosslinguistic methodology to study the acquisition of morphology and semantics, language socialization, and social interaction of prelinguistic infants and caregivers. Her research on adult language ranges across the study of spatial language and cognition, crosscultural comparison of conversational structure and inference, the systematics of social interaction, the expression of social relations in speech, and principles of linguistic politeness.