Skip to main content

The ontogenesis of speech acts*

  • Jerome S. Bruner (a1)

A speech act approach to the transition from pre-linguistic to linguistic communication is adopted in order to consider language in relation to behaviour generally and to allow for an emphasis on the USE of language rather than on its form. The structure of language is seen as non-arbitrary in that it reflects both attention structures (via predication) and action structures (via the fundamental case grammatical form of language). Linguistic concepts are first realized in action. A pilot study focusing on the regulation of JOINT attention and JOINT activity within the context of mutuality between mother and infant is discussed, with emphasis on ritualization in mutual play as a vehicle for understanding the development of the formal structures of language.

Hide All
Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: O.U.P.
Bloom, L. (1971). Language development: form and function in emerging grammars. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Bowerman, M. (1970). Learning to talk: A cross-linguistic study of early syntactic development with special reference to Finnish. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
Brackbill, Y. (1967). The use of social reinforcement in conditioning smiling. In Brack-bill, Y. & Thompson, G. C. (eds), Behavior in infancy and early childhood. New York: Free Press.
Brown, R. (1973). A first language: the early stages. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Brown, R. & Berko, J. (1960). Word association and the acquisition of grammar. ChDev 31. 114.
Bruner, J. S. (1972). Nature and uses of immaturity. AmPsych. 27. 687708.
Bruner, J. S. (1974). Organisation of early skilled action. In Richards, M. P. M. (ed.), The integration of a child into a social world. London: C.U.P.
Bruner, J. S., Goodnow, J. J. & Austin, G. A. (1956). A study of thinking. New York: Wiley.
Cazden, C. B. (1973). Play with language and metalinguistic awareness: one dimension of language experience. Paper presented at the Second Lucy Sprague Mitchell Memorial Conference at the Bank Street College of Education, May.
Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Collis, G. M. & Schaffer, H. R. (1974). Synchronization of visual attention in mother-infant pairs. (Mimeo).
Cromer, R. F. (1974 a). The development of language and cognition: the cognition hypothesis. In Foss, B. (ed.) New perspectives in child development. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Cromer, R. F. (1974 b). An experimental investigation of a putative linguistic universal: marking and the indirect object. (Mimeo).
Dore, J. (in press). The development of speech acts. The Hague: Mouton.
Elkonin, D. B. (1971). Development of speech. In Zaporozhets, A. V. & Elkonin, D. B. (eds), The psychology of preschool children. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Fillmore, C. J. (1968). The case for case. In Bach, E. & Harms, R. T. (eds), Universals in linguistic theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Greenberg, J. H. (1963). Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. In Greenberg, J. H. (ed.), Universals of language. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Greenfield, P. M., Smith, J. H. & Laufer, B. (in press). Communication and the beginnings of language: the development of semantic structure in one-word speech and beyond. New York: Academic Press.
Grice, H. P. (1967). Logic and conversation. Unpublished manuscript of William James Lectures, Harvard University.
Grice, H. P. (1968). Utterer's meaning, sentence-meaning and word-meaning. FL 4. 225–42.
Hockett, C. F. (1963). The problem of universals in language. In Greenberg, J. H. (ed.), Universals of language. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Jakobson, R. (1963). Implications of language universals for linguistics. In Greenberg, J. H. (ed.), Universals of language. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Jakobson, R. (1968). Child language, aphasia and phonological universals. The Hague: Mouton.
Jakobson, R. (1972). Collected papers. The Hague: Mouton, 1972.
de Laguna, G. (1927). Speech: its function and development. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.
Mackworth, N. H. & Bruner, J. S. (1970). How adults and children search and recognize pictures. HumDev 13. 149–77.
Maratos, O. (1973). Development of imitation. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society Conference.
McNeill, D. (1970). The acquisition of language. New York: Harper & Row.
McNeill, D. (1974) Semiotic extension. Paper presented at the Loyola Symposium on Cognition,Chicago,April.
Neisser, U. (1967). Cognitive psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Nelson, K. (1973). Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Monogr. Soc. Res. Ch. Dev. 38 (1–2; Serial No. 149).
Reynolds, P. C. (in press). Play, language and human evolution. In Bruner, J., Jolly, A. & Sylva, K. (eds), Play: its role in evolution and development. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Rheingold, H. L., Gewirtz, J. & Ross, H. (1959). Social conditioning of vocalizations in the infant. JCompPhysiolPsych 52. 6873.
Robson, K. S. (1967). The role of eye-to-eye contact in maternal-infant attachment. Child Research Branch, NIMH, Bethesda, Maryland.
Ryan, J. (1974). Early language development. In Richards, M. P. M. (ed.), The integration of a child into a social world. London: C.U.P.
Saussure, F. de (1959). Course in general linguistics. New York: Philosophical Library.
Schlesinger, I. M. (1974). Relational concepts underlying language. In Schiefelbusch, R. L. & Lloyd, L. L. (eds), Language perspectives: acquisition, retardation and intervention. London: Macmillan.
Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language. London: C.U.P.
Sinclair-de-Zwart, H. (1969). Developmental psycholinguistics. In Elkind, D. & Flavell, J. H. (eds), Studies in cognitive development: essays in honor of Jean Piaget. New York: O.U.P.
Slobin, D. I. (1966). The acquisition of Russian as a native language. In Smith, F. & Miller, G. A. (eds), The genesis of language. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Strawson, P. F. (1959). Persons. Chapter 3 of Individuals. London: Methuen.
Sugarman, S. (1973). A description of communicative development in the pre-language child. Unpublished thesis, Hampshire College.
Trevarthen, C. (1974). Infant response to objects and persons. Paper presented at the Spring meeting of the British Psychological Society, Bangor.
Ullman, S. (1963). Semantic universals. In Greenberg, J. H. (ed.), Universals of language. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 315 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2431 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.