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Title: The child's acquisition of his native language
Author: Preston, P. A.
Awarding Body: Institute of Education (University of London)
Current Institution: UCL Institute of Education (IOE)
Date of Award: 1981
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The thesis is that the native language is not learned but acquired causally. In Chapter I, I discuss the ways in which abilities may be acquired. I assume that there are at most two ways of acquisition and discuss how these may be related and how they are distinguished. In Chapters II and III, I outline the structure of infant thinking before the infant can speak, with a view to denying that at that time rationality can be ascribed to infants. I have an argument of a Kantian kind for the claim that a private language - a language of thought - must be ascribed to infants, who are agents before they are speakers. This language is, however, restricted both with respect to the kind of experience and with respect to the kind of operations it permits. In Chapter IV, I consider the possibility of the infant with the modest cognitive abilities with which the arguments of Chapters II and III have equipped him, acquiring the native language via either of the two modes of learning which I have assumed divide up the field without remainder. On my argument, the child cannot learn language off his own bat by forming a theory about the behaviour of adult speakers through which he could bring his performances into line with theirs, since the rationality necessary for theory formation cannot be ascribed to him. Even if this point is waived, the model still requires of him performances beyond his cognitive competence. The language game model fails either through being a causal model in disguise or by assuming in the infant knowledge of the very public language acquisition of which the model is to account for. If there are only two ways of acquisition and if one fails, it follows that the other must hold. In Chapter V, I draw this conclusion and sketch a causal account of language acquisition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available