Re: "Learning" Language

Subject: Re: "Learning" Language
From: Karen Mayer <Karen_Mayer -dot- TOUCH_TECHNOLOGY -at- NOTES -dot- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 10:42:09 EST

-------------------- ORIGINAL MESSAGE TEXT --------------------
Arlen writes
"It's well
documented that children who are talked to (either in conversation or by
being read to) speak earlier than those who do not. There's no need for any
sort of special "language rules" to be wired in to our brain."

But the current research suggests those rules indeed ARE hardwired into our
brains as our the speech sounds of every language on earth. As we get
older, we learnwhich sounds belong in our language and lose the rest.

-------------------- END OF ORIGINAL MESSAGE --------------------

The current research by *some individuals* does not necessarily mean the
theory is fact. Have they isolated a gene for this "hardwiring?" If so,
can they distinguish which language the gene is hardcoded for? Do Chinese
people have a gene for a Chinese "dialect", whereas French people have a
gene for learning French? Since the grammar of Chinese is so different
from French, one would suspect, based on the hardwiring theory, that the
genes would be easily distinguishable.

I suggest that in this case, as in many others, the theory that the
grammar for a given language came first, and the research is attempting
to prove the theory. I'd really like to know the scientific basis for the
"fact" that a particular language's grammar is hard-coded into the brain
(since the native language isn't determined until after birth). Take a
Russian woman who gives her baby up for adoption to a Chinese family,
which raises the baby in China and speaks nothing but Chinese to the
baby. Does the baby have trouble learning Chinese because he/she was
prewired for Russian? I would think it confusing if all we learn is
vocabulary -- Russian grammar is extremely complex, whereas Chinese is
very simple. Does the little 2 year old build Russian sentences with
Chinese vocabulary?

-- karen mayer
B.A. in Russian (really!)

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