The Genesis of Language

A Psycholinguistic Approach

Edited by Frank Smith and George A. Miller




This is the first publication to bring together formal aspects and practical implications of powerful modern concepts of linguistic theory. It presents a unique confrontation between the views of theorists making dramatic advances at the frontier of the rapidly developing study of formal linguistics and the views of psychologists interested in the language development of children, educators concerned with teaching deaf children to speak, and engineers striving to perfect mechanical devices for the production or processing of acoustic patterns of speech. Also relevant and represented in this volume are the views of the comparative psychologist, the ethnologist, and the geneticist analyzing the functions and processes of animal communication systems and their evolutionary relationship to human speech. Of special interest are the response of experts in applied fields to new theoretic views which may have revolutionary effects on the traditional approaches to their subjects.

After an introductory overview by the editors, David McNeill provides a comprehensive outline of current linguistic theory and uses it to interpret recent empirical studies of language acquisition in children. Dan I. Slobin considers some opposing points of view and contributes evidence from important Russian work in the psychology and teaching of language (including in an appendix the first English-language abstracts of a wide range of recent Russian studies). Jerry A. Fodor discusses strategic issues involved in reaching for a solution to complex theoretical problems of syntax learning.

Ruth H. Weir, author of Language in the Crib, makes further observations of the private verbal activity of the language-learning child, and D. B. Fry outlines the normal development of the child's phonological system. Like Fry, Ira J. Hirsh gives special attention to the critical effect of reduced exposure to normal speech during the early years of children with severe hearing loss. Mildred C. Templin outlines an extensive longitudinal and cross-sectional study comprehending many aspects pf a child's language development.

Eric H. Lenneberg, Richard A. Chase, and Hans Kalmus present papers on general aspects of communication systems and their biological and evolutionary foundations. David Premack discusses a project he is undertaking with linguistic Arthur Schhwartz to see if chimpanzee can demonstrate any facility for syntax. Finally, some general reflections are provided by James J. Jenkins.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262130264 400 pp. |


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262690225 400 pp. |


Frank Smith

George A. Miller