Problems in the Transformational Analysis of Early Child Language

  • Max Miller
Part of the Springer Series in Language and Communication book series (SSLAN, volume 3)


Before the 1960s, child language was usually analyzed in research on language acquisition in terms of the linguistic categories that had been developed for adult language. For instance, it was studied in what proportions the expanding vocabulary of the child could be divided among the various lexical classes of adult language.1


Language Acquisition Semantic Role Grammatical Development Phrase Structure Grammar Reduction Transformation 
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  1. 1.
    Cf McCARTHY’s (1954) survey article on language acquisition.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    According to BROWN (1973, p.206), the missing subject or “agent” of this utterance referred to Adam himself.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Nevertheless it remains to be explained why children at this stage of development very frequently do not explicitly express the grammatical subject if it refers to them (cf Sect. 5.4.7).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Cf the interpretation of “auch”-constructions on pp. 146ff.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    In this list, cited from BROWN (1973, pp. 173, 179), certain semantic, relations, which Brown terms “referential operations” (cf Sect. 5.3.4e), are subsumed under the relations “attributive and entity” and “demonstrative and entity”. BROWN supplies no examples for the first eight relations; I have taken them from corresponding sections in Brown’s book.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    ANTINUCCI and PARISI (1970, 1971, 1972) illustrated their descriptive model, which they derive from generative semantics, only with a few child utterances (cf LEUNINGER et al., 1972, pp. 164ff.). In this study I only discuss semantic descriptive models which are based on large samples of children’s utterances. For this reason I have not considered the interesting attempts by SUPPES (1974) to analyze early child utterances in terms of model-theoretical semantics.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    The term “semantic intention” as used by SCHLESINGER (1971 a,b), is distinct from the complex concept of intention used in speech act theory or Grice’s theory of intentional meaning. The term has been used in research on language acquisitionGoogle Scholar
  8. 9a).
    informally, i.e., without reference to a formal representation of semantic structures (cf. e.g. SLOBIN, 1973), andGoogle Scholar
  9. 9b).
    to express that these are sentence meanings which the child intends, and not only what is imputed by others as to the child’s meaning.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Bloom’s analyses led some researchers, e.g., VAN DER GEEST (1974, p. 75), to postulate further that the logic of transition from one-word to two-word to three-word utterances, etc., could be expained with the aid of “developmental deletion transformations”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Max Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung der Lebensbedingungen der wissenschaftlich-technischen WeltStarnbergFed. Rep. of Germany

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