Language acquisition from a biolinguistic perspective

Stephen Crain*, Loes Koring, Rosalind Thornton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper describes the biolinguistic approach to language acquisition. We contrast the biolinguistic approach with a usage-based approach. We argue that the biolinguistic approach is superior because it provides more accurate and more extensive generalizations about the properties of human languages, as well as a better account of how children acquire human languages. To distinguish between these accounts, we focus on how child and adult language differ both in sentence production and in sentence understanding. We argue that the observed differences resist explanation using the cognitive mechanisms that are invoked by the usage-based approach. In contrast, the biolinguistic approach explains the qualitative parametric differences between child and adult language. Explaining how child and adult language differ and demonstrating that children perceive unity despite apparent diversity are two of the hallmarks of the biolinguistic approach to language acquisition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)120-149
    Number of pages30
    JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
    Issue numberPart B
    Early online date12 Sept 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • biolinguistics
    • continuity Assumption
    • language acquisition
    • structure-dependence
    • unification
    • universal Grammar
    • usage-based approach


    Dive into the research topics of 'Language acquisition from a biolinguistic perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this