Investigations in Universal Grammar

From Language, Speech, and Communication

Investigations in Universal Grammar

A Guide to Experiments on the Acquisition of Syntax and Semantics

By Stephen Crain and Rosalind Thornton

A Bradford Book





This introductory guide to language acquisition research is presented within the framework of Universal Grammar, a theory of the human faculty for language. The authors focus on two experimental techniques for assessing children's linguistic competence: the Elicited Production task, a production task, and the Truth Value Judgment task, a comprehension task. Their methodologies are designed to overcome the numerous obstacles to empirical investigation of children's language competence. They produce research results that are more reproducible and less likely to be dismissed as an artifact of improper experimental procedure.

In the first section of the book, the authors examine the fundamental assumptions that guide research in this area; they present both a theory of linguistic competence and a model of language processing. In the following two sections, they discuss in detail their two experimental techniques.


$88.00 X ISBN: 9780262032506 360 pp. | 7 in x 10 in


$37.00 X ISBN: 9780262531801 360 pp. | 7 in x 10 in


  • One of the first surveys to start research into the connections between linguistic data in children and the rules of Universal Grammar.... Crain and Thornton have written an ambitious book. It is an excellent introduction to investigations into child language.

    Tuomo Jämsä

    Journal of Consciousness Studies

  • This book brings together theoretical and methodological issues on language development through a deep investigation of comprehension and production experiments with children. It is an unique resource for linguists and psycholinguists for understanding language acquisition and for engaging in active research in the field.

    Maria Teresa Guasti

    University of Siena

  • The Crain and Thornton study develops a particular model for the study of child language within a more comprehensive picture of the nature of language and its use. The presentation is clear and careful. They provide judicious comparison with alternatives and analysis of a variety of research techniques, and illustrate results obtained by means of the procedures they advocate. It is a highly informative and very stimulating inquiry, which should have a major impact on this exciting and rapidly advancing field.

    Noam Chomsky

    Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT