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Deacon on Language Acquisition, 2001/08/28:14:25

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Cog Sci
I've been reading Terence Deacon's book, The Symbolic Species, and I've been quite enjoying it. Deacon takes on both the Chomskyan's about language-acquisition and the Fodoreans about modularity. This is, given my background, rather like watching someone spit at the Pope.

Deacon's argument about language acquisition is novel. He argues not that humans evolved a dedicated language faculty which enables us to learn languages quickly despite impoverished stimuli, but rather that languages evolved suit childrens' innate general learning biases. Kids are able to guess the right syntax without much experiential input because other general cognitive mechanisms incline them to make their guesses about syntax in certain directions, and the languages that survive are the ones that adapted themselves to the guesses kids are already inclined to make! Very clever!
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