Construction Grammar for Kids
Most accounts of child language acquisition use as analytic tools adult-like syntactic categories and schemas (formal grammars) with little concern for whether they are psychologically real for young children. Recent research has demonstrated, however, that children do not operate initially with such abstract linguistic entities, but instead operate on the basis of concrete, item-based constructions. Children construct more abstract linguistic constructions only gradually – on the basis of linguistic experience in which frequency plays a key role – and they constrain these constructions to their appropriate ranges of use only gradually as well – again on the basis of linguistic experience in which frequency plays a key role. The best account of first language acquisition is provided by a construction-based, usage-based model in which children process the language they experience in discourse interactions with other persons, relying explicitly and exclusively on social and cognitive skills that children of this age are known to possess.