Drawing data from a corpus of more that 100,000 spontaneous utterances,
Andrew Radford demonstrates that the fundamental characteristic of
children's earliest structures is that they are essentially lexical and
thematic in nature. They show evidence of the acquisition of lexical but
not functional categories, and of thematic but not nonthematic
constituents. This hypothesis provides a unified account of a wide range of
phenomena in early child English. This detailed study of children's initial
grammars suggests a model of acquisition which is essentially maturational.
Different modules of the child's grammar come into operation at different
stages of development, triggered by relevant aspects of the child's
experience. In this, Radford's account sheds significant light on some of
the fundamental questions for the theory of language acquisition.