Melissa Bowerman & Stephen Levinson (eds.), Language acquisition and conceptual development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. ix, 602. Hb. $100.00, pb. $35.00. Academic Article uri icon


  • This volume, dedicated to Martin Braine, is the outcome of a conference held at the Max Plank Institute in Nijmegen in 1995. The first of four parts covers general theoretical issues; part 2 focuses specifically on word learning, particularly nouns; in part 3, entities, individuation and quantification are examined; and in part 4, relational concepts in form-function mapping, with a focus on the influence of language-specific properties. Two main issues link the nineteen chapters: whether concepts are language-independent or constructed through language, and the role of experience in conceptual development. As emphasized by the editors in the introduction, past attempts to relate cognitive and linguistic development have not been too successful, possibly because of the focus on language structure within theoretical linguistics. Recent research on the domain-specific cognitive abilities of infants and on semantic and cross-linguistic aspects of language acquisition have provided new insights, and thus it is timely to reexamine the links.

publication date

  • January 2003