Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: July 01, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963985 | Print ISBN: 9781412937207 | Online ISBN: 9781412963985| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Considering that language is the primary vehicle through which thoughts are expressed and cultural identity is developed and transmitted, the ability to use language is one of the most essential qualities of human beings. Although it has been proven that other (nonhuman) animals also use a set of language-like communicative skills, as explained by linguist Steve Pinker, the generative nature of human speech is truly unique. To fully appreciate the profound intricacy of language use, the process through which humans acquire the set of skills necessary to communicate must be understood. How, and when, do humans develop the ability to distinguish between words like play and pay? What prompts children to consistently produce utterances with correct word orders (e.g., subject-verb-object versus verb-subject-object)? At what point do people learn that such phrases as It's hot in here can either be a statement or an indirect request (e.g., to open a (eat, ...