Jim Miller and Regina Weinert investigate syntactic structure and the
organization of discourse in spontaneous spoken language. Using data from
English, German, and Russian, they develop a systematic analysis of spoken
English and highlight properties that hold across languages.
The authors argue that the differences in syntax and the construction of
discourse between spontaneous speech and written language bear on various
areas of linguistic theory, apart from having obvious implications for
syntactic analysis. In particular, they bear on typology, Chomskyan
theories of first language acquisition, and the perennial problem of
language in education. In current typological practice written and
spontaneous spoken texts are often compared; the authors show convincingly
that typological research should compare like with like. The consequences
for Chomskyan, and indeed all theories of first language acquisition flow
from the central fact that children first learn spoken langauge before they
are taught written language.